A Portuguese man-of-war was spotted on a Cape May County beach this week, adding to several reports of the potentially deadly sea creatures in New Jersey this summer.
Christine Perna Burns, of Bridgewater, who was on vacation in Wildwood Crest this week, shared a photo on Facebook that she captured of an intact man-of-war that washed up on the beach at Forget-Me-Not Road on Thursday evening.
“When we left the beach it was still there in the sand. The lifeguards had already left for the day, but my husband spotted a lifeguard truck down the beach,” Burns said.
A lifeguard from the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol Saturday morning said the lifeguards were off duty at the time and there wasn’t much more information she could provide.
NJ.com reported there have been men-of-war in Cape May and Wildwood over the past few weeks.
Jellyfish expert Paul Bologna of Montclair State University told NJ.com the sighting was “not uncommon,” but potentially dangerous.
The National Ocean Service website says a man-of-war is closely related to a jellyfish, but is actually a species of siphonophore.
The creature is found mostly in tropical and subtropical seas and can be recognized by a colorful balloon-like float rising up to 6 inches above the waterline.
“Lurking below the float are long strands of tentacles and polyps that grow to an average of 30 feet and may extend by as much as 100 feet,” the National Ocean Service says. “The tentacles contain stinging nematocysts, microscopic capsules loaded with coiled, barbed tubes that deliver venom capable of paralyzing and killing small fish and crustaceans.”
It’s stinging is rarely deadly to people, the service says, but can be very painful. The man-of-war can sting a person weeks after having washed ashore, according to the National Ocean Service.