Thursday 15 March 2018

Bathers warned after Portugese after large numbers of Portuguese Man o' War wash up on Spanish beaches.

Bathers on beaches in Andalusia have been warned to be wary after large numbers of Portuguese Man o'War, Physalia physalis, washed up on beaches in the area, following a series of winter storms that are thought to have blown them in from the Atlantic. People are being urged to be wary of both the animals themselves, and any detached tentacles, as the venom of the species is particularly potent, and can occasionally kill Humans, though children and pets are thought to be more at risk than adults.

A Portuguese Man O'war on a beach near Cadiz earlier this month. SpainWeather.

Portuguese Man o' War are colonial Siphonophores only distantly related to true Jellyfish, Scyphozoa, though commonly referred to as such. Their bodies are made up of thousands of individual zooids, each with their own sting, tentacles and digestive system. New zooids are formed by budding from other members of the colony, but remain attached to these to form a single colony. Each year a generation of specialist sexual zooids (gonozoids) is produced which produce eggs and sperm, with fertilised eggs going on to form new colonies. These animals are anchored to the sea surface by a highly modified zooid which forms an air sack, filled with a mixture of carbon monoxide defused from the zooid and nitrogen, oxygen and argon from the atmosphere, which are brought into the sack through osmosis. 
Portuguese Man o' War produce an extremely strong venom, for both capturing food and defending the colony, and which is capable of causing extremely painful stings, and sometimes death, in Humans, for which reason people are advised to be extremely cautious on beaches where these animals wash up, not just of entire animals but also detached tentacles, which are less visible but still capable of stinging.
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