The dogs and I were walking along the beach yesterday up at Waikawa Beach when I noticed a small blobby mass of something by the water’s edge. I drew closer and bent down to study it.
Fortunately I had my iPhone with me, and a reasonable 3G signal. Wikipedia helpfully informed me the pile of bluish stuff was a Portuguese man o’ war:
Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis), also known as the Portuguese man-of-war, Man-Of-War, or bluebottle, is a jellyfish-like marine cnidarian of the family Physaliidae. Its venomous tentacles can deliver a powerful sting.
Despite its outward appearance, the man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which differs from jellyfish in that it is not actually a single organism, but a colonial organism made up of many minute individuals called zooids. …
The name “man o’ war” comes from the man-of-war, an 18th-century armed sailing ship, and the cnidarian’s supposed resemblance to the Portuguese version at full sail.
I quickly made sure the dogs didn’t get too close as apparently (Wikipedia again):
Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.
Having noticed one, I then noticed a few more at the water’s edge, and then more, and then more blobby bits higher up the beach. In fact, they were all over the place.
They’re curious things, seeming almost random piles of gloop, with the inflated bladder reminiscent of the finger of a latex glove, and a small sail-like structure.
I was glad I had my boots on, but watched the dogs carefully, as I didn’t want them being stung on account of a carelessly placed paw.