Despite Their Appearance, A Portuguese Man-of-War Consists of Several Different Organisms Working Together
by Marisela Avila, age 16
Many people confuse the Portuguese man-of-war with the common jellyfish. What these people don’t notice is that the man-of-war is not one organism, like the jellyfish, but a colony made up of four individual polyps the float, digestive polyps, nematocysts and tentacles – each of which perform a different function but work together as a whole.
The gas-filled float helps the man-of-war swim, and doubles as a sail with a crest-shaped form. A gland providing nitrogen and oxygen supplies the float with gas. The role of digestive polyps is to sting and capture prey, and then deposit it into digestive cavities. The man of war also has nematocysts, tiny cells containing fine, coiled thread that springs out to poison prey. Its long tentacles are armed with powerful stinging cells to stun or kill their various prey.
The Portuguese man-of-war produces millions of offspring in their lifetime. Their diet commonly consists of small fish, fish lava, crustaceans and plankon.
Although often confused with the compass jellyfish, the Portuguese man-of-war is a very different creature unlike the active, swimming jellyfish, the man-of-war drifts passively with the currents of the warmer waters of the open Atlantic ocean. You can find it along the North Atlantic coasts of the Americas, Europe and Africa and in the Mediterranean Sea.
[Source: The Encyclopedia of Animals]