Posted by: r.m. | May 2, 2009

Portuguese Man o’ War, turtles, plastic bags, and the Med

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.

With a sting 10 times stronger than an ordinary jellyfish, it presents a more dangerous threat than the annual jellyfish         invasion of beaches in Spain, France, Italy and North Africa.

“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.



  1. I’m not at all surprised from the presence of such poisonous microscopic hydrozoans and the significantly decrease in number of its predator. Our aggressive actions towards nature and our greediness are not only affecting negatively on the environment but definitely are resulting in serious threat for our lives. Getting rid of the man o war is achieved through its predator such as Loggerhead and leatherback sea turtle. But unfortunately they are decreasing in number. Global warming caused by the emission of greenhouse gas from our industries is not the only factor leading to the extinction of the predators of man o war. Pollution, destruction of animal habitats, and uncontrolled fishing are as well major contributors for the extinctions. So in fact, the presence of man o war on the beaches and the inability to limit its colonialism and its poisonous effect is just a few of many consequences that may arise if we fail to act towards preserving our environment.

  2. […] Portuguese Man O’War… I’ve blogged about it earlier …check out what it looks like […]

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