Dangerous Portuguese Man-of-Wars Have Been Spotted on Florida Beaches
The only thing memorable about the 1979's ill-conceived Jaws sequel is the tagline: "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water." And it applies here.
FROM SHARKS TO SIPHONOPHORES--WHAT?!?
We're not that far removed from reports of a 1,600-pound great white shark swimming off the Florida Gulf Coast, and now a dangerous species of sea life is being found on Florida beaches. Trust me, you want no part of the Portuguese Man-of-War.
Back in 1977, we thought my sister had gotten zapped by a jellyfish while we were vacationing on Jekyll Island in Georgia. But no, it was the lowly stingray that got her. It was no picnic, but a good reminder that even commonly seen sea creatures can be very bad news.
The thing is, Portuguese Man-of-Wars--which are not a species of jellyfish but something called a siphonophore--are not supposed to be commonly seen in Florida. But since they move with the currents of the warm waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, I guess it's not a huge surprise they could make their way to the Sunshine State. But they'd certainly be a huge surprise to any unsuspecting beachcomber who stepped on one.
THE STING OF THE PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR IS NO PICNIC
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the sting of the Man-of-War is hardly ever deadly but incredibly painful. The NOAA description of how these creatures inflict pain is quite humbling:
"The tentacles contain stinging nematocysts, microscopic capsules loaded with coiled, barbed tubes that deliver venom capable of paralyzing and killing small fish and crustaceans."
Be thankful you're not a hermit crab.
Still, if you suffer a wound like the one in these images, I doubt you'll feel very thankful about anything.
HOW THE PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR OPERATES
Here's a Portuguese Man-of-War in action. Interestingly, some fish are immune to the venom. But some, as you'll see, are not.
WHAT IF YOU'RE STUNG BY A PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR?
Be mindful if you're planning a trip to South Florida. These things can still be capable of stinging you even if they've been laying around on the beach for many weeks. Now if you DO get stung by one, what do you do? Check out what this guy recommends. He's a braver soul than I am.
LoopNews.com does not recommend the application of urine but DOES have vinegar at the top of ITS list of ways to treat Portuguese Man-of-War stings. I'm with them.
Be safe on your next trip to Florida. Dangerous sea life is taking up residence these days.
[DISCLAIMER: We do not recommend that you deliberately let something sting or bite you.]