15 Portuguese man o'war wash up on Kiawah Island; SCDNR advises caution

Source: SCDNR
Source: SCDNR

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - About 15 Portuguese man o'war have turned up on Kiawah Island as SCDNR officials encourage beachgoers to be cautious.

The sea creatures washed up along Kiawah's beach in the last two days, according to town officials.

"While this number is not alarming and is in line with what Kiawah sees each year, please be mindful that other coastal communities are experiencing an influx," Kiawah Island officials said."Please use caution on the beach and while swimming."

SCDNR officials are also encouraging beachgoers to be cautious and alert to the presence of the sea animals.

Typically found in the open ocean, these relatives of jellyfish rarely cross paths with beachgoers in South Carolina, officials said.

"However, recent sustained onshore winds have temporarily brought this creature with a powerful sting to our shores," SCDNR officials said in a report.

"Many of us have been stung by a jellyfish, but this is a more serious sting than our common jellyfish. In some cases, complications can occur requiring medical attention," said SCDNR spokesman Phil Maier.

Officials advise people to avoid them in the water and ashore since they say even after they are dead, the man o'war can still sting.

Kiawah Island officials released the following additional information on the sea animal.

The Portuguese man o' war is recognized by its balloon-like float, which may be blue, violet, or pink and rises up to six inches above the water line.  Lurking below the float are long strands of tentacles and polyps that grow to an average of 30 feet  and may extend by as much as   100 feet . The tentacles contain stinging nematocysts, microscopic capsules loaded with coiled, barbed tubes that deliver venom capable of paralyzing and killing small fish and crustaceans. While the man o' war's sting is rarely deadly to people, it packs a painful punch and causes welts on exposed skin. 

The Portuguese man o' war, (Physalia physalis) is often called a jellyfish, but is actually a species of siphonophore, a group of animals that are closely related to jellyfish. Found mostly in tropical and subtropical seas, men o' war are propelled by winds and ocean currents alone, and sometimes float in legions of 1,000 or more!  Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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