Baldwin County, Ala WKRG – A 7-year-old girl is recovering from stings all over her body from what her mom believes was a Portuguese Man O’ War.
Crystal Kelly says her daughter Grayson was stung on Wednesday and has been in excruciating pain ever since. She says it happened on Little Lagoon, Gulf Shores. Purple flags are flying in Orange Beach this weekend warning people of the marine life.
Crystal is warning everyone with their children to be on high alert. Her daughter is hurting but she hopes the stings don’t leave permanent marks.
ABOUT THE PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR
Anyone unfamiliar with the biology of the venomous Portuguese man-of-war would likely mistake it for a jellyfish. Not only is it not a jellyfish, it’s not even an “it,” but a “they.” The Portuguese man-of-war is a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together.
Colony Structure, Tentacles, and Venom
The man-of-war comprises four separate polyps. It gets its name from the uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, which sits above the water and somewhat resembles an old warship at full sail.Man-of-wars are also known as bluebottles for the purple-blue color of their pneumatophores.
The tentacles are the man-of-war’s second organism. These long, thin tendrils 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. For humans, a man-of-war sting isexcruciatinglypainful, but rarely deadly. But beware—even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a sting.
Muscles in the tentacles draw prey up to a polyp containing the gastrozooids or digestive organisms. A fourth polyp contains the reproductive organisms.
Man-of-wars are found, sometimes in groups of 1,000 or more, floating in warm waters throughout the world’s oceans. They have no independent means of propulsion and either drift on the currents or catch the wind with their pneumatophores. To avoid threats on the surface, they can deflate their air bags and briefly submerge.