They’re squishy, colorful, and look like something out of a sci-fi movie. However, Portuguese Man-of-Wars (or Man o’ Wars) are nothing to mess with, even when they wash up along the shore of your local beach.
As of late, these creatures have been showing up on the beaches of New York and New Jersey, shocking locals with their alien-like appearance. The Man ‘o Wars were first spotted on Harvey Cedar Beach on June 21, and dozens of them have been popping up ever since, according to New Jersey Advance. The creatures resemble jellyfish, but have vivid blue and purple coloring throughout their bodies. Additionally, they have tentacles that can extend up to 30 feet and sting worse than any common jellyfish.
Stings from these animals can cause chest pain, pulse changes, headache, muscle spasm and difficulty swallowing. Furthermore, a sting from a Man ‘o War can be deadly if it is not treated immediately.
Multiple sightings of the animals were reported on Fire Island in New York, and two children were stung on July 7, according to the Long Island Press.
“Portuguese Man-O’-War are easy to see,” Grace Kelly-McGovern, spokeswoman for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, told the Press. “We advise beach goers to stay away from them when they see them. If you are stung, rinse the affected area with salt water, apply vinegar or a baking soda paste and take a pain killer if needed. If you experience a severe reaction to the sting, seek immediate medical attention.”
But the real question is, why are these creatures showing up in areas like New Jersey and New York?
Experts believe it is due to the jet stream. Changes in the wind and ocean currents are thought to have brought the animals to the colder waters of the East Coast. Because they are more common in warmer waters, it’s likely that they didn’t venture to this area of the Atlantic by choice.
However, they likely won’t be leaving the area any time soon. Stockton University Professor Matt Landau says that they will not drift away from the coast until the Gulf Stream changes direction.
“If you come in contact with a tentacle, even a detached tentacle, those stinging cells are going to fire,” Landau said, according to NBC Philadelphia.
In short, it’s best to stay away from the Man ‘o Wars, no matter how great their colors would look in an Instagram photo.
- Bolger, Timothy. “Portuguese Man o’ War Stings 2 Kids on Fire Island.” Long Island Press. July 7, 2015.
- Greenberg, Ted. “At Least 3 More Portuguese Man-of-Wars Spotted on Jersey Shore, Long Island Beaches.” NBC New York. July 7, 2015.
- Newsworks staff. “Professor: Nothing Fishy About Portuguese Man o’ War at Jersey Shore.” NBC Philadelphia. July 6, 2015.
- Sullivan, James. “Why Man-of-War has been found in Jersey waters.” Science Recorder. July 4, 2015.