Portuguese Man O’ War: A Symbiotic Group of Grouches

You are wondering why the name? Honestly, it seems like nobody can agree on why they've been given the name, but clearly, women were not involved with the naming. So I'd suggest you just make up a reason and roll with it the next time it comes up in casual conversation.

Contrary to popular belief, these bad boiz are not jellyfish, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise (Jellies are single organisms—whatever that means). They are a species of siphonophore—obv! So, basically they are a conglomerate of genetically identical clones that are specialized for a variety of forms and functions. These babes are stellar at working together, so if you need any tips on teamwork, this zesty balloon blob is for you.

How can you spot one? They have nasty tentacles that can range anywhere from around 30 feet to 100 feet. These lengthy wobbly-arms deliver a nasty venomous sting that kills its prey. While it’s not normally fatal to humans, it is heckin painful. Announcing one's presence is a great way to watch people scatter.

So how do they become this crazy mess of vibrant aggression? Well now that you asked, they start out as fertilized eggs and then start “budding” into the different organism’s parts. These polyps (coral is made up of polyps too, they are like friends!!!) need each other to survive so they merge into this:

Image courtesy of Islands in the Sea 2002, NOAA/OER. -  U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Image courtesy of Islands in the Sea 2002, NOAA/OER. - U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Marching bands all over the country have been trying to emulate these intricacies to no avail.

If you were to have one take away it should be that you do not touch one. That would go poorly for you because they have a nasty venomous sting, trust me, I got stung in the eye once—my left eye has never been the same.

Apparently, these nasties can inflate and deflate their balloon biz. Essentially, they are very angry and colorful lungs that kill things with a zappy tentacle. I do believe you have found your next Halloween costume!

Hey, it's ok, don’t fret, there are some ocean dwellers that eat them. Your friendly neighborhood loggerhead turtle and ocean sunfish eat these like candy—in other words they are the vigilantes of the sea.

I don’t know about you, but after all these crazy facts I am just fine not coming in contact with another Portuguese Man O’ War.