Portuguese Man-O-War washes up on Delaware Beach
Last night Kevin and Amy Baldwin did some overnight fishing in Delaware Seashore State Park. They usually catch all kinds of fish and the kids enjoy the surf. Late at night Amy has story time for the kids around the cook fire. Kevin was catching some big cow nose rays, hoping for a a shark, but shark week was off to a slow start. However there was another predator lurking in our waters. Kevin was cutting bait when the high tide came over the top of the sand. He saw something out of the corner of his eye in the wash, it was a Man O war, right next to his feet. He jumped up and quickly used a shovel to keep the creature in one spot. Then he did what any of my fishing friends would do, took a selfie. After taking pictures and educating the kids, then they combed the beaches in that area looking for more but didn’t see any. I just talked to Kevin a few minutes ago and he said … “These keep popping up in Jersey it was only a matter of time before they would show up in Delaware, but what are the odds one would wash up right next to my feet?” They called DNREC to come collect the creature, I will doa follow up with them to see what they do in this case. Portuguese Man O’ War are also known as Man-O-War, floating terror, or blue bottle. They are Marine Cnidarians from the family Physaliidae. Their tentacles can deliver a painful sting from nematocysts. It is not a common jellyfish but a siphonophore, which is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colony of specialized minute individuals called zooids. Basically it is an animal made up of individual cells that work together like a colony. The nematocysts can still sting after the tentacles have broken free and wash up on a beach.
The Man O’ War is made up of 4 separate polyps. The upper most polyp is a gas-filled bladder or pneumatophore, which sits above the water and acts as a sail. The bladder resembles an old warship at full sail, hence the name Man O War. Tentacles hang below the bladder, at average lengths of thirty feet, but can get as long as one hundred and sixty feet. These are composed of independent cells that work as a colony. The stinging cells or nematocysts kill small fish and crustaceans. Muscles in the tentacles move the prey up to a polyp containing the gastrozooids or digestive organisms. A fourth polyp contains the reproductive organisms. Once detached the nematocysts or stinging cells are still active for quite some time. The sting is not deadly to humans but is very painful. With all the ones that keep popping up on New Jersey beaches I knew it was only a matter of time before we would see some here.
The treatment of stings is not like a normal jellyfish. Avoid further contact with the Portuguese Man O War and remove remnants of the organism from the skin. Do not touch them directly, to avoid secondary stings, use gloves or tweezers. Apply saltwater to the affected area, fresh water will further aggravate the affected area and make it worse. Follow up the saltwater wash with hot water (113 degrees Fahrenheit) this will ease the pain better than cold water. If the eyes have been affected irrigate them with room temperature water, copious amounts of water are recommended to fully flush the eyes and then seek medical attention as soon as possible. Do not use vinegar on a Man O War sting, it will increase the toxin delivery and even cause any nematocysts left behind to fire and sting. Vinegar is used on jellyfish stings to neutralize the toxin, but a Mon O War is not a jellyfish and the toxins are much different.
**** Normally I do not put text on pictures, but lately a local media outlet has been taking pictures from this site and not giving proper credit. I honestly hate having text on pictures but actions like that make it necessary. Thank You