JellyFish Facts

War Jellyfish

War Jellyfish picture

War Jellyfish

The War Jellyfish (Physalia physalis) or the Portuguese Man of War is so called because its shape resembles the Portuguese battleship from the 15th and the 16th century. The Portuguese man of war is usually found in subtropical and tropical waters of the Indian and the Pacific Ocean. It is also found waters around Australia and New Zealand, where it is commonly referred to as blue bubble or blue bottle, because of its purplish blue hue. The War jellyfish belong to the phylum: Cnidaria, class: Hydrozoa, order: Siphonophora and family: Physaliidae.

The war jellyfish is not actually a jellyfish at all, it is not even a single organism. The war jellyfish is actually a colony of four polyps or medusoids. These polyps are highly specialized individuals which perform specific functions. The polyps are all attached to each other and are very similar to each other, but they perform highly specialized functions just like different organs in a single body. Since each polyp can perform only one function, it cannot survive independently, without the other three polyps. They can only exist together as an integrated whole.

The war jellyfish is has a floating mechanism that allows it to stay afloat on the surface of the water. One of the polyps functions as an air bladder and is typically 9 to 30 centimeters in length and extends to as much as 15 centimeters above the surface of the water. This is usually purplish blue in color. If the war jellyfish feels threatened at the surface of the water, it can quickly deflate this air bladder and temporarily sink into the ocean.

The tentacles of the war jellyfish emerge from below the main body. While the average length of these tentacles is about 1 meter, they are known to grow as long as 50 meters under certain conditions. The tentacles contain thousands upon thousands of nematocysts that contain the deadly venom of the war jellyfish. These tentacles are mainly used to kill or paralyze the prey of the war jellyfish. After the prey has been attacked, the tentacles then help transport the food towards the digestive polyp of the war jellyfish. The digestive polyp of the war jellyfish contains strong enzymes that are capable of breaking down the food easily and quickly.

The venom of the war jellyfish is extremely powerful. In the case of small fish and other sea creatures, it is adequate to kill them. In the case of larger predators and sea animals, it is sufficient to shock or paralyze the creature, giving the war jellyfish opportunity to make an escape. In the case of humans, the venom of the war jellyfish can be quite dangerous. Even the sting, where the nematocysts attach themselves to the skin can cause an extremely painful rash. These tentacles can deliver the venom hour after hour even after they have been detached from the main body of the war jellyfish. If a tentacle attaches itself to the skin of a person, it is important to quickly detach it to ensure that more poison is not secreted into the body of the victim.

Learn more about Jellyfish, different Jellyfish Species, general Jellyfish Information, Jellyfish Pets and Jellyfish Safety




Written by and Sudarsana Sinha.

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