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On Yucatan coast, something worse than jellyfish

Portuguese man o' war can leave painful bites

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Portuguese man o’ war have been found drifting ashore on the Yucatan coast. Photo: Facebook

Reports of jellyfish drifting ashore on the Yucatan coast are not quite accurate, but close.

The Portuguese man o’ war, spotted first in Telchac and then in Sisal, has long tentacles that deliver a painful sting, which is venomous and powerful enough to kill fish, but rarely humans.

Seen from a distance, the man o’ war is fascinating. Technically not a jellyfish, this siphonophore is made up of specialized individual animals called zooids or polyps.

These polyps are attached to one another and cannot survive independently, requiring each polyp to work together and function like an individual animal.

The Portuguese man o’ war has no means of propulsion, moving according to the winds, currents and tides. One beach sighting often leads to several more, and often beaches are closed soon after.

Steer clear of these creatures. Contact with tentacles causes intense pain, which usually leads to blisters. Stings can also cause abdominal pain, changes in pulse, chest pain, collapse, headache, muscle pain and spasms, numbness and weakness, pain in the arms or legs, rash, nasal secretion and teary eyes, difficulty swallowing and sweating.

Vinegar may be recommended for some jellyfish stings, but the Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish. Sprinkling wounds with vinegar increases the reaction with toxins and worsens symptoms.

Sources: Yucatan Coast Living, Wikipedia

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