Man of War, Siphonophore

Man of War, Siphonophore

I learned something new this last trip to Mother Ocean. Usually, I spend my beach time on the Atlantic coast, near where I grew up. This time we were on the Gulf, in Florida’s panhandle. On my first morning walk I came across dozens of these creatures scattered along the tidal lines…they are much different looking than the Jellyfish I’m accustomed to seeing. Otherworldly, even…they looked like manufactured plastic toys with the seams predominately showing…

The Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis), also known as the Man-of-war, bluebottle, or floating terror, is a marine cnidarian of the family Physaliidae. Its venomous tentacles can deliver a painful sting. Despite its outward appearance, the Portuguese man o’ war 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. These zooids are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are incapable of independent survival.

Lesson I took….don’t be a zooid. Be You.


  1. When my wife took me to Mazatlan this past May, the white flag was up all week, signifying jellyfish. We didn’t see one all week washed up on shore until… The second or third last day, she decides to go in the water and tries to get me in there… I waded to my shins. Rough seas and jellyfish aren’t my idea of fun! She got stung and you could see the tentacle marks on her leg. The bartenders told us NO ONE gets stung… And shook their heads in amazement.

    The next day, we saw them washed up everywhere we walked along the beach. Little blue buggers, the size of maybe a toonie, some a little larger. So it’s a common thing on the Pacific side too it seems. They have a flag for em on the beach!


  2. Yes…there are Purple Flags for “Dangerous Marine Life”…Jellyfish, Stingrays, dangerous fish. Simon Vince   I hope your wife’s stings weren’t too terrible, but I know they are quite painful.
    Often, people fail to heed those flags.  We had an early morning swimmer go out in the surf Tuesday morning prior to New Year’s Eve…he never returned, and the body was yet to be found, despite two days of planes, helicopters, boats, and beach combing 4 wheelers searching.
    I love the Ocean…but I understand it’s power and it’s dangers.  I prefer to swim in a Pool. .:)


  3. The NJ shore gets loaded with smaller jellyfish especially when the water is warmer and in the bays. My daughter got a bad sting when she was a lifeguard. Don’t think I would ever go back in the water if these were present!


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