This jelly-like marine invertebrate is also known as the Portuguese Man-of-War or bluebottle. The name “man-of-war” is borrowed from a 16th century English armed sailing ship.

They are not actually a single creature, but a colonial organism made up of many smaller creatures called zooids. Each of these zooids, is highly specialized and are all physiologically integrated and incapable of independent survival. 


Their gas-filled bladder remains on the surface and the remainder stays underwater. Since it has no means of propulsion, it is moved by a combination of winds, currents, and tides. Although they can be found anywhere in the open ocean, they are most commonly found in the tropical and subtropical regions. They have been found as far north as the Bay of Fundy.



The Portuguese Man-of-War is responsible for up to 10,000 human stings in Australia each summer.

The stinging venom filled tentacles can paralyze small fish and other prey. Detached tentacles and dead specimens still release venom and the stings can be just as painful as from live creatures. The venom remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the creature or the detachment of the tentacle.

Stings usually cause severe pain to humans, leaving red welts on the skin that last 2 or 3 days. The venom can travel to the lymph nodes and may cause an intense pain. A sting may lead to an allergic reaction. The affects can include: fever, shock, heart and lung impairment, and on rare occasions…death.  


Consider the following:

  • Avoid further contact with the Man-of-War – carefully remove any remnants of the creature from the skin, do not directly touch any part Man-of-War,
  • Apply salt water to the affected area – not fresh water, which tends to make the affected area worse,
  • Then apply warm water – around 45 °C – this will reduce the pain and denature the toxins,
  • If eyes have been affected – irrigate with large amounts of room temperature tap water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention ASAP.


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