By Stephanie Braswell for Island Connection
Today, the Town’s Beach Patrol reported that roughly 15 Portuguese Man o’ War have washed up along Kiawah’s beach in the last two days. While this number is not alarming and is in line with what Kiawah sees each year, please be mindful that other coastal communities are experiencing an influx. Please use caution on the beach and while swimming.
The Portuguese man o’ war is recognized by its balloon-like float, which may be blue, violet, or pink and rises up to six inches above the water line. Lurking below the float are long strands of tentacles and polyps that grow to an average of 30 feet and may extend by as much as 100 feet. The tentacles contain stinging nematocysts, microscopic capsules loaded with coiled, barbed tubes that deliver venom capable of paralyzing and killing small fish and crustaceans. While the man o’ war’s sting is rarely deadly to people, it packs a painful punch and causes welts on exposed skin.
The Portuguese man o’ war, (Physalia physalis) is often called a jellyfish, but is actually a species of siphonophore, a group of animals that are closely related to jellyfish. Found mostly in tropical and subtropical seas, men o’ war are propelled by winds and ocean currents alone, and sometimes float in legions of 1,000 or more! Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration