Not a Pet: Portuguese Man O War In Gibraltar
eavy storms brought the Portuguese man o' war to Gibraltar. According to tonight's Newswatch on GBC television the Government advised caution as its sting can be very harmful to humans. News presenter Sean Sullivan interviewed our charity's chairman Dr Eric Shaw about this creature of the sea.
"If you're stung, go to the hospital as soon as you can! There is no easy way around it," said Eric, explaining that even a dead Portuguese man o' war can inflict serious wounds.
If you touch a specimen with bare hands, the animal's venom goes right through your skin. Fresh water might worsen the sting's effect on your system. Wash and cool the wound with salt water and seek immediate help from your doctor, even if you personally consider the sting to be harmless. As pointed out by GBC, the animal's contact with human skin can cause "abdominal or chest pains, headaches, nausea, muscle spasms, irritations and pains". The colourful creature can be truly breathtaking: its venom might cause respiratory problems, allergic shocks and is especially dangerous for people with heart conditions. In rare cases a sting might even be fatal.
Looking like a jellyfish, the unprotected species actually belongs to the class of hydroids (hydrozoa). Each animal consists of several highly specialised colonies of individual polyps which cannot exist apart from each other. With its gas filled bag or bladder of some 30 cm length floating on the surface, its tentacles can be 12 metres long.
As said by GBC, the Royal Gibraltar Police saw some 20 specimens of the Portuguese man o' war in Gibraltar's waters or stranded on local beaches; it is uncommon for them to enter the area, but this might change. Eric told GBC that in his opinion the heavy storms of the past weeks have caused the animals to drift from the Atlantic further to the coastline.