Innocent-Looking Portuguese Man O’ War Carries A Deadly Sting

The earth is full of incredible life, it seems that one lifetime is barely enough to scratch the surface of exploring what is out there.

When it comes to ocean exploration, there’s still so much we don’t know, and there’s so much left to discover. In fact, researchers are continuing to find sea creatures that were previously unknown to mankind.

As if the unknown isn’t fascinating enough, getting to know the species we do have information on is equally fascinating. There are some incredible sea creatures out there. Take, for example, the Portuguese Man O’ War.

Photo: Max Pixel

While commonly referred to as a jellyfish, the lethal Man O’ War is actually a siphonophore, which is an animal made up of several organisms that work in unison.

BBC Earth released a clip from the documentary Blue Planet II and it features the Man O’ War and its deadly beauty. In the clip, which was shared on YouTube, David Attenborough narrates the way these unique sea creatures catch food.

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Oddly, a Man O’ War doesn’t have to be fully submerged underwater to catch its prey meters below them. Instead, it relies on long threads that stretch below them, while its top floats on the surface of the water and acts as a sail to propel it forward.

The threads trail several meters deep, reaching as far as 30 meters (98.5ft) in length. Each thread is armed with “thousands of stinging cells” that can paralyze and kill prey.

Photo: flickr/Joi Ito

“A single tentacle could kill a fish, or, in rare cases, a human,” Attenborough explained.

While deadly, Man O’ Wars are rarely known to kill humans, though it has happened. Instead, they stick to their diet of eating fish (sometimes 100 per day).


Once a fish touches one of the long, lethal threads hanging below the Man O’ War, it gets stung and becomes an easy victim for food.

The Man O’ War then uses its thin tentacle-like threads to pull the fish up to the surface and digest it.

Photo: YouTube/BBC Earth

Despite their dangerous sting, Man O’ Wars have a beauty to them that’s captivating. Boasting colors of blue, pink, or violet, these sea creatures can rise 6 inches above the water and look like little ships floating along the surface.

To reproduce, they use what’s called “broadcast spawning.” Essentially, both eggs and sperm are released into the open ocean. If and when they cross paths, they become fertilized and a new Man O’ War is born.

Nature is so fascinating!

Watch the BBC Earth clip below:

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