The killer Portuguese Man o’ War (Physalia physalis), one of the world’s most poisonous jellyfish – actually not a jellyfish but floating colonies of microscopic hydrozoans – have been spotted this week off Spain’s favourite beaches for the first time in 10 years.
“Climate change is changing the migration patterns of many creatures. If they establish themselves it would be very worrying because they really are very dangerous,” says Xavier Pastor, the European director of the Oceana ecological campaigning group.
Even if the creature expires after being washed ashore, its tentacles still retain their poison. The only way to get rid of them is by hauling them from the sea by hand. “The Portuguese Man o’ War hasn’t been seen in the Mediterranean for a decade, and its appearance off the Spanish coast could herald a process of colonisation, which has happened with other invading species,” Mr Pastor said.”
But it isn’t just climate change. Due to pollution and overfishing, the natural predators of Portuguese Man o’ War have significantly decreased in number.
“Predators of the Portuguese Man of War include Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtles. Unfortunately, due to improper trash disposal, these turtles sometimes mistake plastic bags for the man of war. After ingesting the indigestable plastic bags, the turtles can get sick and die.
More specifically, Leatherback sea turtles are classified as endangered.
The leatherback turtle has survived for more than a hundred million years, but is now facing extinction. Recent estimates of numbers show that this species is declining precipitously throughout its range, particularly in the Pacific over the last twenty years: as few as 2,300 adult females now remain, making the Pacific leatherback the world’s most endangered marine turtle population.