Meet the Very Venomous Portuguese Man-of-War
These jellyfish relatives can pack a punch, but they're also fascinating creatures.
They look like a discarded balloon. They’re actually a bubble full of agony.
That’s why Weird Animal Question of the Week is grateful to Mishtu Som, who asked us “What is a Portuguese man-of-war exactly?”
You’ll want the skinny on these dangerous beauties if you encounter one on your summer beach day.
Named for the buoyant sail that resembles an ancient ship, these creatures should be called "men-of-wars," because they’re not one animal, but many.
A man-of-war is a colony of hydroids, tiny animals which “work together to form a total package,” says George Burgess of the Florida Museum of Natural History. (See "Deadly Beauty: A Portrait of the Portuguese Man-of-War.")
Therefore, they are not jellyfish, though they strongly resemble their cousins of the sea.
“Johnny Cash had a song about working in an auto factory,” stealing parts over years to build one Cadillac,