Beached Portuguese Man O' War colony spotted at Wied l-Ghasri, Gozo

Watch your step! A rare jellyfish with a painful sting was found in Wied L-Gharsi, Gozo

Beached Portuguese man o' war colony at Wied l-Ghasri, Gozo, photographed by Ms. Danica Bonello Spiteri
Beached Portuguese man o' war colony at Wied l-Ghasri, Gozo, photographed by Ms. Danica Bonello Spiteri

A rare Portuguese man o’ war colony with a painful sting was found in Wied l-Ghasri, Gozo. 

The Spot the Jellyfish citizen science campaign said it received information that the specimen was found in Gozo, and warned people to be careful. 

Prof. Alan Deidun, the coordinator of the campaign, said that the species is not a true jellyfish, but rather a siphonophore colony of four different types of polyps known as ‘zooids’.

Itis rarely observed within Maltese coastal waters, with the campaign recording it less than ten times since August 2009. Most of the previous sightings were made along the western and north-western shores of the islands.

Deidun has warned people to be careful, as the species inflicts very painful stings and the venom can remain active for a few days, even after the specimen is dead. The campaign said that applying vinegar or alcohol could actually intensify the pain sensation, as it triggers the firing of further stinging cells.

The best treatment would consist of the application of hot packs or hot water immersion. This is specified within the Med-Jellyrisk sting treatment booklet which could be found on the Spot the Jellyfish website. 

The species is commonly known as the Portugese man o' war because of its resemblance to the 16th century vessel of Portuguese design, known as the caravel, which had triangular sails similar in outline to the specimen.

The  is native of tropical sub-tropical areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, occasionally being projected into the Mediterranean in spring by persistent westerly winds.

 The Spot the Jellyfish campaign enjoys the support of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) and of Nature Trust, Friends of the Earth, EkoSkola, the BlueFlag Malta programme and Sharklab.

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