SEA creatures suspected to be the deadly Portuguese man o’ war have been found washed up on a number of beaches across Hampshire.
Various sightings were reported over the weekend after they were spotted on the shore at Milford, Hordle Cliff and along the sea wall in Lymington. Scores of the animal have also been discovered as far afield as Cornwall.
Often mistaken for a jellyfish, the highly venomous organism has tentacles that can grow up to 165 feet long and are usually found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, but it is not uncommon for them to wash up on UK shores.
Known for delivering an extremely painful sting, even when appearing to be dead, its toxic venom is powerful enough to kill fish and animals such as dogs. In rare instances, the sting can be fatal to humans.
A spokesperson from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust told the A&T: “Man o’ war are not actually jellyfish – they are a collection of small animals called zooids that together form a colonial animal, in this case a hydrozoan.
“These animals can sometimes be found on our shores after stormy weather – they can’t swim, so are often pushed towards the coast by strong winds. This species is easily identifiable by the pink, purple, and blue colouring on its body, its ridged crest and its long, blue-violet tentacles.
“Although fascinating, they are best admired from a distance, as they can give a nasty sting even when dead. This is true of many jellyfish too, so if you’re not sure what you’ve found we always recommend not touching it.”
Scientifically known as Physalia physalis, it is thought that the sea creature earned the name Portuguese man o’ war due to its shape, which seamen claimed to resemble an 18th Century man-of-war armed sailing ship flying a full sail.
In June a number of relatively harmless giant barrel jellyfish were found on beaches in Highcliffe and Christchurch.
Any sightings of Portuguese man o’ war can be reported to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust via email at firstname.lastname@example.org