Portuguese man o’ war sighted off Xlendi Bay last Monday

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Portuguese man o' war sighted off Xlendi Bay last MondayA Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis) individual, was spotted last Monday by a fisherman just outside Xlendi Bay in Gozo and was duly reported by Joe Vella Gaffiero to the Spot the Jellyfish team at the IOI-MOC, University of Malta.

The Jellyfish team said that sightings of this stinging species are rare in Maltese waters – normally only a handful of species are encountered within Maltese waters every year. Normally, the species is absent from local waters during the busy summer bathing season and is normally encountered locally during springtime.

The species is native of tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean but is also commonly encountered in other regions such as Australia and the Mediterranean Sea, where it is mainly encountered on Spanish beaches.

It inflicts very painful stings and the venom in detached tentacles and even in dead specimens (such as those which wash up on shore) can remain active for a few days. In 2010, a 69-year-old woman died on a Sardinian beach after being stung presumably by a Portuguese man o’war.

According to local marine biologist Dr. Alan Deidun, best treatment for the stings of such a jellyfish is the application of hot packs and washing with seawater (never with freshwater). The Portuguese man o’ war is not actually a jellyfish but actually consists of a colony of specialised gelatinous organisms. The colony has an air-filled bladder called the marissa or sail through it manages to float.

The species is commonly known as the Portuguese man-o-war by virtue of its resemblance to a 16th century vessel of Portuguese design, known as the caravel, which had triangular sails similar in outline to Physalia.

Anyone who spots such jellyfish is being asked to contact the Spot the Jellyfish team on the contacts listed below.

SMS on 79 222 278 or email ioi-moc@um.edu.mt (attach a photo of the jellyfish if possible).

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