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Warning not to touch Portuguese Man of War

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Portuguese Man of War by John CollisterThe Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture is warning those using beaches not to touch Portuguese Man of War washed up this week.

Local beachcomber John Collister discovered a Man of War at Langness and delivered it DEFA, which has preserved the specimen and plans to take it to public engagements.

DEFA has received reports of the creatures being washed up in Douglas, too.

Strandings are uncommon, but they have been recorded several times before, particularly in 2009 and in 1954, both after big storms. They are carried here from the tropics by strong southerly winds.

It is important to note they should not be handled as their stinging cells can remain active after death.

The Portuguese Man of War is not a jellyfish, although related to true jellyfish and corals. It is made up of a colony of many individual animals, each with a specific role. It has a gas bag called a pneumatophore, which is filled with a mixture of gases, and is used for flotation and as a sail. It can be up to 30cm long.

Their feeding tentacles can be more than 30m long, and are equipped with stinging and sticky food-capture cells. Stings can cause severe pain, although rarely are they fatal.

Portuguese Man of War are eaten by other occasional visitors to the Isle of Man such as Ocean sunfish, the world’s heaviest bony fish, and the leatherback turtle, the world’s largest turtle. 

For more information/interview contact, Dr Peter Duncan, Senior Marine Environment Officer, DEFA, +44 1624 685884.

Picture by John Collister.

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