Meet the Portugese Man o’ War

Man-o-War“I want to be a Portuguese Man O’ War for Halloween” He asked if I meant a sexy Portuguese Man O’ War because that’s what happens to the majority of girl’s costumes. Uh no, of course I wanted it to be as close to anatomically correct as possible. He said he would be one too. Then he said “you know people will just think we’re jellyfish” which meant he knew that although they were cnidarians as well, they were definitely NOT jellyfish. *sigh* The Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis) is a bad ass colonial organism. This doesn’t mean it has taken over an African country and exploited its people and resources (colonial style), but rather it is made up of many polyps coming together to form a super organism. On top there is a floating gas sac known as a pneumatophore and other polyps attach to this. Only one polyp is lucky enough to be the pneumatophore and the others fall into rank in one of the three remaining divisions: feeding, reproduction, or defense. The long tentacles of the defense troop can be up to 50 meters and have venom containing nematocysts. These stinging cells paralyze small prey and the feeding polyps begin the ocean buffet.

So who is tough enough to withstand the stinging tentacles to prey upon the Portuguese man o’ war? Loggerhead turtles! (he makes a cameo in the video) If you only learn one thing from this post, remember the man o’ war is NOT a jellyfish. (Also, try to get your costume inspirations from nature and don’t make them slutty). Check out the National Geographic video below. Also, this quite possibly the best baby costume I’ve ever seen.

Click here to learn more on this lovely collection by Miranda Hoover

“Meet the…” is a collaboration between The Finch & Pea and Nature Afield to bring Nature’s amazing creatures into your home.

Author: Heidi Kay Smith

Biology PhD student on the cusp of finishing and moving on to a postdoc in the behavioral ecology of amphibians. I blog to share my thoughts, ideas, and general feelings of awe of the natural world.

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