Portuguese caravel: what it is, characteristics and sting

Typically, when one speaks of biodiversity or the fauna that inhabits a certain site is characterized, reference is made to groups of animals or species that are part of highly recognized groups. However, nature goes far beyond the species that are most commonly spoken of, since it harbors a whole set of groups that are still quite unknown, mainly due to their lower abundance. Through this article, from EcologíaVerde we take you into the world of hydrozoans and, specifically, we talk about Portuguese caravels or false jellyfish .

Do you want to know what a Portuguese caravel is, its characteristics and what its bite is like ? So, keep reading this interesting article to learn about this curious marine being and see various photos to identify it.

What is a Portuguese caravel and its classification

Although often confusing, the Portuguese man-of- war ( Physalia physalis ) is not a jellyfish, but rather the classification of the Portuguese man-of-war tells us that it is a hydrozoan (from the Greek hydra , water snake, and zoon , animal). It is a class of the phylum of Cnidarians , which are aquatic organisms, mostly marine, with many years old.

P. physalis is a rare species, quite unknown and uncommon on beaches. However, are Portuguese caravels dangerous for people? It is one of the most dangerous species that exist, since the poison of the Portuguese man-of-war , which it stores in its cnidocytes, is very powerful and can be fatal for a child and even an adult, due to anaphylactic shock. what cause. Portuguese caravels remind us of jellyfish for their appearance, but also for their sting.

Characteristics of the Portuguese caravel

To better understand this species, we must contextualize the taxonomy of the Portuguese man-of-war , which is the following:

  • Physalia physalis is part of the Physaliidae Family.
  • It is of the Order Siphonophora.
  • It is of the Hydrozoa Class.
  • It is from the Cnidaria Edge.
  • It is part of the Animalia Kingdom .
  • It is part of the Eukarya Domain.

This false jellyfish is part of the gelatinous plankton and is formed by a group of associated organisms in a colony , with a division of different functions to facilitate the survival of the colony as a whole. These are some of the main characteristics of the Portuguese caravel :

  • As for the morphology of this colonial association , a part of its body is permanently floating on the surface of the water, specifically, the bladder of violet, pink or blue hue filled with gas inside. In this part, there are also small pores which allow the uptake of oxygen to be distributed throughout the colony through a network of tubes. This configuration allows it to be carried by the currents and marine winds, while the rest of the body remains submerged.
  • In addition, this division in its body makes its appearance similar to that of a sailing ship, hence the names by which it is known: Portuguese caravel or Portuguese frigate.
  • Along with this, it has some dactylozoids or tentacles that can reach 50 meters or more and that are used both to defend against predators and to capture prey.
  • Being colonial associations, they are not animals with brains .
  • P. physalis has a digestive system made up of several hydroids called gastrozoids and, in the interior part, they have a food polyp founder of the colony.
  • Around the polyp, there is a crown of gonozoids responsible for producing new cells called gametes. The groups of gametes produced fall to the seabed where they fixate and proceed to release these sex cells. Once fertilization takes place, a polyp is generated that rises to the sea surface through the accumulation of lipids.
  • Regarding its presence, this species has been detected in some regions of Spain, for example, in the Canary Islands, especially during January and February, being able to be present occasionally in March. However, generally, this species lives in groups in tropical and subtropical waters in areas such as the Atlantic coast, the Florida Keys coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea or the Indian Ocean.
How is the bite of a Portuguese caravel

As we have commented, the Portuguese man-of-war presents a danger since the stinging cells of its filaments produce a poison that can cause neurotoxic, cytotoxic and cardiotoxic problems not only in its prey, but also in humans or other animals that encounter it. them, being able to cause us to death. This sting occurs as a fully automatic defense mechanism when the Portuguese caravel witnesses a threat.

As for the symptoms of the Portuguese man-of-war sting , these include a very wide range of severity. Mild symptoms such as stinging and itching may be experienced in the area where the bite occurred, or even severe allergic reactions that can lead to anaphylactic shock and death. The most serious symptoms can go through experiencing very bad pain, constant nausea, vomiting, fever and even death.

We finish this interesting article about this strange marine being giving an answer to what to do if you are bitten by a Portuguese caravel . If you never experience the sting of the Portuguese man-of-war, the recommended actions to follow are:

  1. First, leave the water immediately.
  2. Then you have to wash the wound caused by the bite with sea water, vinegar or alcohol, without rubbing it, to remove the remains of tentacles that may have been left on the skin with the utmost care.
  3. Fresh water should never be applied to treat the bite as it has negative effects, intensifying the effects caused. Furthermore, if possible, it would be preferable to use hot rather than cold water.
  4. Finally, you have to go to an emergency room or to the doctor to review the injury and its effects. Normally, it is recommended to apply a cortisone cream.

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