Portuguese Man o' Wars found on UK beaches

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Record numbers of dangerous Portuguese Man o' War "jellyfish" have been found on beaches along England's south coast.

Record numbers of dangerous Portuguese Man o' War "jellyfish" have been found on beaches along England's south coast.

At least 14 have already been found on beaches from Cornwall and Devon to the Isle of Wight and experts believe there will be more out there.

The Portuguese Man' of War are believed to have been blown towards the UK's coast following recent strong winds.

People are being urged not to touch the creatures, which can give a painful sting even after they have died.

Numerous sightingsAccording to a report from the BBC, five of them have washed up in the past week; three in Devon, one near Holcombe in Dorset and one on the Isle of Wight.

Practical Fishkeeping reported the discovery of one specimen last year at Porthmeor beach near St Ives in Cornwall, but the Marine Conservation Society told the BBC that they received at least another 10 reported sightings in 2007.

Peter Richardson of the MCS told the BBC: "There will be more out there. That's just the ones that are being reported to us.

"Last year we started getting more reports, so two years in a row now we've had unusually large numbers of man-of-wars reported.

"We're expecting more to wash up. As long as the wind prevails, they will keep coming."

Not a real jellyfishThe Portuguese Man o' War or Blue bottle, Physalia physalis, is actually a siphonophore and not a jellyfish at all, despite being commonly referred to as one.

Siphonophores are colonies of specialised polyps and medusoids which live beneath a gas-filled sac called an air bladder, or pneumatophore.

The air bladder, which resembles a clear plastic air filled bag, flaps about on the water surface and acts as a float and sail propelling the Portuguese Man o' War along with food-rich ocean currents.

Excruciating painAlthough there have been several deaths, the species does not normally kill humans.

However, the stings - which can be numerous given the size of the tentacles - are said to be excruciatingly painful and urgent medical attention is essential.

Stings that have become detached from the Portuguese Man o' War can also remain dangerous for several weeks, and dead specimens washed upon on beaches should never be touched.

Recommendations vary on the treatment of stings from the Portuguese Man o' War. Most experts recommend placing the wound in hot water (around 45C), which denatures the protein toxins that the stings inject.

However, ice can also be applied to wounds to ease the pain. This is also said to constrict blood vessels, which reduces the speed at which the venom circulates around the body.

The species has few natural predators, but the sea slug, Glaucus atlanticus and the Loggerhead turtle, which is largely immune to its stings, are both known to eat the creatures.