Downward reconnaissance is strongly encouraged if bare feet is the m.o. for a morning beach stroll. What one sees in the sand foreshadows what one may encounter if they add an ocean plunge to their morning. Simply said, watch out for things that STING. On Florida’s Atlantic Ocean beaches there are two contrastingly named creatures of woe that one may come upon.
The Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalis) has a name worthy of its terror while the Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita)’s name suggests an delightful storybook character. Sighting either of these creatures will cause pause and caution with each future step; being stung by either, even when they lie dead on the beach, is not fun! Their presence in the sand is a warning that others may also be found in nearby ocean waters. Wait to swim until a later time.
I had only seen the Man-of-War on prior visits. Assuming their jelly like bodies qualified them to be Jellyfish. Beach goers soon educated me that they were Man-of-War. Learning their name my respect for their powers increased dramatically. I was “lucky” enough to encounter BOTH species this past New Year; both the seriously named as well as the playfully named dreaded creatures. The Jellyfish fascinated me with their simplicity. I am equally fascinated by the un-animal appearance of the Man-of-War too. I kept my distance and stayed out of the water.
Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalis) is so named from its resemblance to an 18th century armed sailing ship in full sail; it is a smaller model of course. Wikipedia says: “Despite its outward appearance, the Portuguese man o’ war is not a common jellyfish but a siphonophore, which is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colony of specialized minute individuals called zooids. These zooids are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are incapable of independent survival.”
Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) has a name describes it well, helping you know you are observing. Many of the Jellyfish I saw were actually just partial, the “mesoglea” or jelly, which is the last part of the fish to decompose. I have seen numerous Man-of-War on a morning beach; but the Jellyfish were greatly larger in number as they are known to arrive, adding to their intrigue and my fearful respect. Adding to my interest was a pinkish/yellowish “thing” inside which I learned are the gonads (male are pink, female are yellow).
Nature never ceases to amaze and entertain and educate me. Yet I still question such contrasting names for such similar looking and acting species. Guess the name is in the brain of the discoverer? Or the name is the perspective of the discoverer?