Physalia physalis

Physalia physalis
Portuguese Man-of-War

High stinging

Description

It is a high stinging species with important effects on humans. It is recommended to avoid all contact with this jellyfish.

Stinging cells of this species possess a strong venom with neurotoxic, cytotoxic and cardiotoxic properties. The sting can produce burning sensation and intense pain. In the contact zone there is a line of white oval papules with a red margin. Systemic effects that may be observed include tremors, diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures.

In case you have been stung by this species:
DO NOT APPLY FRESHWATER, NO PRESSURE BANDAGE, NO ALCOHOL, NO VINEGAR. Seek immediate medical attention if shock or breathing difficulties occur.

1) WASH WITH SEAWATER - DO NOT RUB.
2) USE A PLASTIC CARD TO REMOVE RESIDUALS OF TENTACLES.
3) APPLY HOT PACKS OR HOT WATER IMMERSION (40-45°C) 10-20 minutes.
4) REASSESS PAIN AND REAPPLY HOT PACK IF NECESSARY.
5) IF PAIN PERSISTS, CONSULT YOUR PHARMACIST OR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL – Ask for analgesic + hydrocortisone preparations (eg. Lidocaine 3-4% + hydrocortisone).

Characteristics

Physalia physalis is a colonial organism of the order of the Siphonofores. The colony is composed of a group of hydroids specialized each in a certain function, like feeding and defense or reproduction. This species can be recognized by the opaque violet float or pneumatophore, which can reach up to 30 cm in length. This float is elongated and full of gas. The float includes a mechanism to control the gas and keep the organism on the surface of the water. The tentacles, bluish purple, can reach up to 20 meters in length.

The arrangement of the float is oriented to the right in some individuals and to the left in others, i.e. depending on the direction of the wind, individuals will be dragged or not to a certain site.

Frequency

It is a native species of the Atlantic Ocean so its presence in the Mediterranean depends on its entrance through the Strait of Gibraltar. The observations of this species on the Catalan coast are very isolated and generally far from the bathing area and usually occur in spring.

Distribution and Habitat

It is generally found in warm, tropical and subtropical waters of the world's oceans; however, it has been reported on beaches in England, Wales and Ireland. In general it is found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and in the Caribbean Sea. It is more common in the open sea, but the currents and the winds could drag them to areas of low depth and towards the beaches. In the Mediterranean is not frequently found, however, a few years have reported numerous observations in the Western Mediterranean, including the waters of the Balearic Islands.