Portuguese man o’ war

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Project Description

Portuguese Man of War

Physalia physalis

Range/Geographical Distribution: Worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters.

Habitat: Floats on the surface of ocean waters.

Description: This floating hydrozoan has an air-filled bladder and long, blue tentacles that trail along in the water.

Size: The tentacles can reach 165 feet in length.

Food: Fish, shrimp, crabs, other crustaceans, and plankton.

Breeding: Dioecious, sexual reproduction occurs in the fall and the gametes are released into the water.

Predators: Fish and crustaceans.

Conservation Status: No legal status.

Interesting Facts: The Portuguese man of war resembles an 1800’s war ship sailing in the water, hence the common name.  Although it looks like a sea jelly this animal is actually a colony of organisms living together, including the gas-filled bladder (pneumatophore), the tentacles (dactylozooids), feeding structures (gastrozooids), and reproductive structures (gonozooids).

On the Coast: The Portuguese man of war sometimes washes up on Georgia’s beaches.  It has a powerful sting and even dead organisms can sting.  If you are stung, do not use an acidic liquid to clean the area such as vinegar because this will activate more stinging cells and increase the pain.

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