The one memorable thing about the ill-conceived 1979 sequel to Jaws is the tagline, “Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water.” And it applies here.
FROM SHARKS TO SIPHONOPHORES – WHAT?!?
We’re not that far off from reports of a 1,600 pound great white shark swimming off Florida’s Gulf Coast, and now a dangerous species of marine life is found on Florida beaches. Believe me, you don’t want to be part of the Portuguese Man-of-War.
In 1977, we thought my sister had been zapped by a jellyfish while we were vacationing on Jekyll Island in Georgia. But no, the humble ray got it. It was no picnic, but a good reminder that even commonly seen sea creatures can be very bad news.
The thing is, the Portuguese Man-of-Wars — which aren’t some species of jellyfish but something called a siphonophore — aren’t 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 no big surprise that they can make it to the Sunshine State. But they would definitely be a huge surprise to any unsuspecting beachcomber who steps on them.
THE PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR’S NEEDLE IS NOT A PICNIC
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Man-of-War’s sting is rarely fatal but incredibly painful. NOAA’s 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’re suffering from a wound like the one in these images, I doubt you’ll feel very grateful for anything.
HOW THE PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR WORKS
Here is a Portuguese Man-of-War in action. Interestingly, some fish are immune to venom. But some, as you will see, are not.
WHAT IF YOU ARE BITCHED BY A PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR?
Be careful if you are planning a trip to South Florida. These things may still be able to sting you even if they have been on the beach for several weeks. Now, if you get bitten by one, what do you do? Find out what this guy recommends. He’s a braver soul than me.
LoopNews.com doesn’t recommend applying urine, but has vinegar high on its list of ways to treat Portuguese man-of-war bites. I am with them.
Be careful on your next trip to Florida. Dangerous marine life is taking up residence these days.[DISCLAIMER: We do not recommend that you deliberately let something sting or bite you.]
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