Portuguese Man o’ War Facts and Information

Physalia physalis


If you don’t know what you are looking for, you could swim by a Portuguese Man o’ War and never know it. They are invertebrates that look like jelly so many people overlook them in the water. It is often mistaken for a jellyfish but it isn’t classified in that area. Instead, it belongs to a group of organisms called zooids.

Portuguese Man o’ War Description

The main part of the Portuguese Man o’ War is clear and looks like jelly. That is what is often above the surface of the water. They have a sail like design that allow them to easily stay afloat. Below the surface though are the squiggly lines of the body that are a light shade of blue. Those are the tentacles and where they have venom.

Class Hydrozoa
Order Siphonophora
Family Physaliidae
Genus Physalia

Portuguese Man o’ War Distribution

They live in the warm waters of the seas around the world. They are often found floating on the top of the oceans. They seem to thrive in the tropical and subtropical areas. Both the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean are full of them. They may end up in the Atlantic Gulf Stream due to wind and current.

Portuguese Man o’ War Behavior

The Portuguese Man o’ War has no way of controlling its body in the water. It is completely dependent upon the current of the water. The wind can also influence their movement as can any type of natural disaster.

To help them be well protected they are able to produce venom. When they come into contact with something in the water they are going to release that venom. Each year more than 10,000 people get stung by them due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In some areas that have a high number of them there is no longer any swimming allowed.

This has caused some problems in various areas. For example along the beautiful beaches of Australia that people tend to enjoy all year long. Hawaii is a top tourist location but the visitors decrease when there is a high risk of getting stung by them.

Many fish though in the oceans are immune to this venom. They will swim very close to the Portuguese Man o’ War because they know that offers them a great deal of protection from predators. Various predators will keep their distance from this entity because they don’t want to be injected with the venom.

Portuguese Man o' War Facts and Information

Portuguese Man o’ War – Physalia physalis

Portuguese Man o’ War Feeding

As they drift around in the water they will take any opportunities that they can to feed. They will consume small fish, plankton and crustaceans. They use their venom to paralyze them so that they are able to prevent their meals from escaping.

Portuguese Man o’ War Reproduction

Spawning takes place for the Portuguese Man o’ War in the fall. They form large colonies of either males or females. Then the colonies will join with each other so that the eggs of the female colony can be mixed with the sperm of the male colony. Many of them will be consumed by various predators. Those that survive will be able to care for themselves from the moment they emerge.

There is still a great deal that experts don’t know about the reproduction of the Portuguese Man o’ War. Observing them in captivity has been difficult because they don’t do well. They tend not to mate due to the stressful conditions. Due to their dangerous nature it is hard to get close to them to find out what all takes place. However, some studies use underwater cameras that are robot controlled to help them get closer than ever before.


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