Wildlife authorities are warning people about dozens of Portuguese Man o’ Wars which have invaded the Jersey Shore. They are easily mistaken for a ziploc bags – but their painful sting (far more painful than the sting of a common jellyfish) will make you regret ever getting close to them to inspect! And if happen to be taking a dip, stay alert. Its tentacles generally grow between 10 and 30 feet in length – you do not want to face its wrath! Its no wonder they’re called ‘floating terrors’.
If you get stung, your symptoms will vary depending how much contact you had with its tentacles. Head for dry land, lift off any tentacle remnants (with an object like a stick, though — not your hands) and quickly wash the wound with seawater, not fresh water. This is important. The sting should then heal well on its own.
The jellyfish-like creatures usually ride north on the Gulf Stream current, since they prefer the current’s mild waters. Sometimes, however, strong winds can blow them closer to land during their journey – that’s probably why you found the guy floating next to you while you had a good time!
Interestingly, despite their gelatinous appearance, they’re not actually jellyfish but infact are ‘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.