We recently went on a boat trip that took us out into the Laguna Madre. We thought we would be seeing a lot of birds and some dolphins, which we did. We were surprised when we got into thousands of Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis).
Our guide, George Colley, explained to us that the man o’ war is not a jellyfish. It is not a single creature, but a colonial organism made up of individuals.
The man-of-war comprises four separate polyps. It gets its name from the uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder, which sits above the water and somewhat resembles an old warship at full sail.
The tentacles are the man-of-war's second organism. They can extend 165 feet in length below the surface, although 30 feet is more the average. They are covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures.
The third organism is the digestive organism and the fourth contains the reproductive organisms.
The Portuguese man o' war lives at the surface of the ocean. The gas-filled bladder remains at the surface, while the remainder is submerged. Since the man o' war has no means of propulsion, it is moved by a combination of winds, currents, and tides.
Stay tuned for more pictures of our three hour tour ... makes you want to burst into song, doesn’t it?