Cue the Jaws theme music…
Recently, several venomous Portuguese Man of Wars were spotted off the shore of New Jersey. The species is usually found in warmer waters around the equator region, about as far north as Florida waters. Although it looks like a blue jellyfish, it is not.
Instead, it is made of several organisms called a siphonophore that work together as a group to survive, and happen to have tentacles just like a jelly fish. Only this species also happens to be very toxic and painful to get stung by. Unlike jellyfish, the Man of War has no way of thrust to move, so it relies heavily on currents or winds to take them wherever. This is how local officials believe that they came to be on Jersey shore, drifting on the wind northward.
The toxicity and threat of the Man of War
These carnivorous creatures’ tentacles are where the toxic venom lie. Although the venom for humans is very seldom a fatal wound, it will still deliver a bite more painful than Hell itself. Dead Man of Wars can even sting, with dead or detached tentacles providing an equally painful bite, adding insult to injury. The venom is there to help immobilize prey and kill it so that the organisms can feast upon the meal after all is said and done. Then, the tentacles bring the meal to the little bubble-like head of the organism that makes up the Man of War.
Using caution around Man of Wars
Of course, after the sightings of the invertebrates, New Jersey officials of the Poison Information and Education System put out a press release on the 1st of July warning people at the beach to stay away from them. The reason being given was that in water, the tentacles may warp around your body, thereby allowing for several painful sting wounds and making it difficult for you to swim back to shore.
Although the invasion seems like it’s an unlikely occurrence, it actually is not, and it is not the first time the Man of Wars have been found drifting on shores and warm waters not native to their regions. But also they usually travel in groups, so this increases the risk factor for all people in the water. If you’re worried about encountering one, look at the press release with all the info on what to do when you encounter the Man of War.