Portuguese Man o' War

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The Portuguese man o' war (Physalia physalis), also known as the Portuguese man-of-war, man-of-war, or bluebottle, is a jelly-like marine invertebrate of the family Physaliidae. The name "man-of-war" is borrowed from the man-of-war, an 16th century English armed sailing ship.

Despite its outward appearance, the man-of-war is not a true jellyfish but a siphonophore, which differ from jellyfish in that they are not actually a single creature, but a colonial organism made up of many minute individuals called zooids.[1] Each of these zooids is highly-specialized and, although structurally similar to other solitary animals, are attached to each other and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are incapable of independent survival.

The man-of-war is found in warm water seas floating on the surface of open ocean, its air bladder keeping it afloat and acting as a sail while the rest of the organism hangs below the surface. It has no means of self-propulsion and is entirely dependent on winds, currents, and tides. It is most common in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific and Indian oceans, but can drift outside of this range on warm currents such as the Atlantic Gulf Stream.



The English common name for the genus Physalia, "man-of-war" is borrowed from the man-of-war, a powerful 16th century sailing ship of English — not Portuguese — design. Interestingly, the Portuguese common name for Physalia is "caravela portuguesa" (English: Portuguese caravel), based on its resemblance the Portuguese-built caravel. In the 16th century, the English adapted the earlier Portuguese caravel design for its man-of-war class ship, and presumably as "man-of-war" replaced "caravel" in the English navy, so it also did in the English language.

Habitat and location

The Portuguese Man o' War lives at the surface of the ocean, with its float above the water, serving as a sail, and the rest of the organism hanging below the surface. It has no means of propulsion, but is moved by a combination of winds, currents, and tides. It is found in open ocean in all of the world's warm water seas but most commonly in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific and Indian oceans, and the northern Atlantic Gulf Stream. Strong onshore winds may drive them into bays or on beaches. It is rare for only a single Portuguese Man o' War to be found; the discovery of one usually indicates the presence of many as they are usually congregated by currents and winds into groups of thousands.

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