Saving the Portuguese-man-of-war
Photo by Valter Jacinto | PortugalJust a few weeks after moving to Tenerife I was down on the beach at Las Galletas in the south of the island when I spied two Portuguese Man-of-wars stranded on the sand. It was really exciting for me because I had only seen these weird sea creatures in books before and on TV.
Poisonous stinging tentacles
Although they are famous for being a potentially very dangerous sea animal to encounter I realised that if I picked them up by their bladder-floats that I would be safe from the poisonous stinging tentacles below. I knew they would dry up and die if left on the sand so I decided to do my good deed for the day and rescue them.
This turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected. Each time I threw the animals out into the sea the waves brought them back in and dumped them on the sand again.
Then I had an idea. I thought that if I went out on a rocky part of the beach and threw the Man-of-wars from there then hopefully they would be far enough out to get pulled out further and not swept back in.
It took a few failed attempts and they got washed around and back onto the sandy part of the beach next to the rocks but eventually I succeeded.
At least I think I did because I didn’t stick around that long afterwards. I said to myself that I had done all I could for the hapless creatures and I realised that a lot of people would have thought I was quite mad if they had known what I was doing.
I had taken some photos of the Man-of-wars I had rescued and decided to write articles for the local press. I ended up with a story in three of the Tenerife newspapers, including Tenerife News that I was already writing for.
In the weeks ahead many more Portuguese Man-of-wars got washed up at other beaches including the resorts of Los Cristianos and at Las Americas. I felt proud of being one of the first people to have issued a public health warning to bathers about the creatures.
Photo by MuseumWalesThe Portuguese Man-of-war, or Blue Bottle or Blue Bubble as it is also known, is often thought of as a jellyfish but is actually a colony of polyps known as a siphonophore, with specialised functions for its different parts. The floats are filled with gas and are likened to the sails of the old-fashioned warship that gives the animal its name.
Underneath the floating part are the stinging tentacles and the rest of the colony that is responsible for eating and reproducing.The sting of a Portuguese Man-of-war is said to be 65% more venomous than that of the cobra so they do present a very real danger, and apart from intense pain, the sting can even cause paralysis of the breathing and heart failure.
The stinging tentacles of the Portuguese-man-of-war can reach as much as 50ft and they trail in the water in the attempt to catch small fish and other small sea creatures.
Despite the dangerous stinging ability that the Portuguese Man-of-war has it is actually the food of sea turtles and a species of sea slug that are not bothered by the poison.
Copyright © 2013 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
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