Conservation experts have issued a warning after rare sightings of a potentially life-threatening sea creature on Britain’s beaches.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has received reports of several Portuguese Man o’ War washing up on beaches in Cornwall and Scilly Isles.
We don’t receive reports of Portuguese man o’ war every year, but when we do they can turn up in big numbers, usually around about this time of year
Stings from the creatures, which are not jellyfish but a colony of specialised creatures, can be exceptionally painful and in extreme cases fatal.
The MCS says the creatures are only occasionally reported in UK waters with the last significant UK sigthtings of the species occurring in 2009 and 2012.
“We don’t receive reports of Portuguese man o’ war every year, but when we do they can turn up in big numbers, usually around about this time of year”, said Dr Peter Richardson, Head of the MCS Biodiversity Programme.
“These recent sightings could herald the arrival of more of the creatures as they get blown in.”
The Portuguese Man-of-War isn’t a jellyfish but is closely related, and consists of a floating colony of hydrozoans – lots of really tiny marine organisms living together and behaving collectively as one animal.
A transparent purple float is visible on the water’s surface whilst the blue, tentacle-like ‘fishing polyps’ that hang below the float can be tens of meters in length.
“It’s the tentacle-like polyps that can give an agonising and potentially lethal sting,” said Dr Richardson.
“Because a stranded Portuguese Man of War looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon with blue ribbons attached, children will find it fascinating.”
If you spot a Portuguese Man-of-War then report the sighting immediately, ideally with a picture, to www.mcsuk.org