WATCH OUT! These Dangerous Creatures Are Showing Up on East Coast Beaches.A. Stout
Beginning in late June, record numbers of colorful squishies have washed up on beaches from Delaware to New York. These odd creatures may look like jellyfish, but they’re actually siphophores (which, granted, are relatives of jellyfish). The species itself is called the Portuguese man o’ war. An appropriate name, given their floating bladder that functions as a “sail.”
These elegant creatures are undoubtedly a stunning sight, but they’re not exactly something you’d want to meet in person. They possess dangerous, pearl-like tentacles that are 30 feet long (on average!). Best-case scenario, their venom can cause immense pain; worst-case, their venom can be deadly. And the invertebrate can sting whether it’s dead or alive.
Though this situation is a bit scary, it’s also pretty fascinating: men o’ war usually hang out in the tropics and sub-tropics, like the Gulf of Mexico, so what are they doing in states like New Jersey? John Tiedemann, who specializes in marine ecology at Monmouth University, says it’s likely a result of the Gulf Stream, a strong current that flows from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Newfoundland. These currents, combined with gusts of wind, push the men o’ war along an unintended journey until they land on the sea shore. This isn’t atypical for northeastern states in the summer, but this year, there have been more sightings than usual.
That being said, those along the East Coast should probably be extra careful when visiting the beach. Talk to a lifeguard if you see or get stung by one. And if the latter happens, remove the tentacle with an object (not your hands) and wash the wound with saltwater. If you find yourself struggling to breathe, go to the hospital immediately.