The blue bottle jellyfish, also known as the Portuguese man-of-war, is not actually a jellyfish, but a collection of organisms living together in a colony, called a siphonophore. The blue bottle jellyfish is composed of four separate organisms, each with a different job for the colony.
The major shape of the jellyfish comes from the first organism, making up a float called the pneumatophore. This beautiful blue-purple shape is where the jellyfish gets its name.
The second organism makes up the tentacles, responsible for capturing prey.
The third and fourth organisms make up the digestive system and the reproductive system.
Imagine going on a tropical beach vacation to Florida. The soft white sand nearly burns your feet, but the ocean tide is just a few steps away. However, as you near the water you see warning signs for jellyfish and most people aren’t going in the water. Disappointed, a life guard informs you that there have been sightings of the blue bottle jellyfish in the area and advises you to stay out of the water.
Just like many people, the blue bottle jellyfish enjoys the warm tropical waters around the equator. It lives in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, floating near the surface of the water.
It’s a common sight in Australia and can also be found along the coasts of India, the Caribbean and even the coasts of Florida. Sometimes gathering in groups of up to 1000 individuals, these organisms are passive and can be seen floating on or just below the ocean surface.
A blue bottle jellyfish is soft, without many defenses against larger, jawed predators. To survive the competition in warm, tropical seas, the blue bottle jellyfish has evolved several adaptations, or physical traits that help it survive.
Bluebottle and minor jellyfish sting
Stings by bluebottle jellyfish are the most common in Australia. These can cause intense pain and sores in the areas of skin which have been in contact with the jellyfish tentacles. The pain usually decreases or stops after 1–2 hours and the sores may fade after a few days. You may also have a rash or redness in the area which was stung.
- Wash the sting site with sea water and remove any tentacles.
- Immerse the sting or run hot water on the skin for 20 minutes. Make sure the hot water will not burn the person. It should be as hot as they can tolerate — around 45 degrees Celsius. The person can also have a hot shower.
- If there is no hot water, an ice pack may help to relieve the pain.
Jellyfish sting prevention
- Some things you can do to help prevent jellyfish stings are:
- Avoid swimming in the sea when warning signs about jellyfish are displayed.
- Don’t touch any jellyfish in the water or on the beach.
- Wear a full-body Lycra wetsuit and waterproof footwear