Men of War on the Beaches

It’s “unseasonally warm” according to the weatherman on the TV. It’s supposed to be in the low 70’s but instead it’s in the early 80’s. Hey, don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining but the warm winter weather has brought a few unwelcome visitors to the beach.

Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish

While Andrew went ocean fishing this morning, I decided to drive to another nearby nature reserve. Curry Hammock State Park includes about 1000 acres of hammock (forest), coral beaches and four islands; Fat Deer Key, Long Point Key, Little Crawl Key and Deer Key (I wonder who named them?).

Wandering along a deserted, pristine beach I suddenly came across this critter above (close-up below) – a Portuguese Man O’War (also known as the Bluebottle and Bluebubble). Still inflated and looking for trouble this siphonophore can give you a nasty sting with its fine tentacles (some as long as 30 feet long).

Man O’War Closeup

I always thought it was a type of jellyfish but apparently a siphonophore is different as it’s made up of “a colony of specialized polyps and medusoids” (what ever they are?). It survives by stinging small fish and drawing them up into it’s gastrozooid to digest them. It has no means of propulsion, relying instead on it’s air filled bladder which gets blown along by the wind. The bladder supposedly looks similar to the sails of the Portuguese Man O’War fighting ships from the 14th/15th centuries – strangest ship I’ve ever seen!

All I know is it’s VERY dangerous. So dangerous that people who’ve been stung badly have been known to die. I wasn’t about to go prodding it to find out! When Andrew got back from fishing he had seen at least twenty of them floating in the ocean. It certainly puts you off snorkelling or even paddling!

Palm Leaf

Another strange thing that I found today was a tropical rockland hammock. This forest was mostly made up of thatch palm trees. It was like walking through the palm house at Kew Gardens but more dense, dark and noisy. Enormous spider webs were everywhere (I was dreading walking into one), birds tweeting high up in the tree tops (that I couldn’t see) and stunning black and white spotted butterflies (the size of two rich-tea biscuits) flitting around my face. All that and the hammock was growing on a limestone platform.

Limestone

This stone platform (above) is full of eroded holes which collect fresh water and keep many of the small mammals alive as well as providing the right growing conditions for tiny rare ferns. It’s like walking in a dark mysterious woodland moonscape. Very weird! I will be back to explore it more in the coming weeks.

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~ by Jane on February 3, 2008.

8 Responses to “Men of War on the Beaches”

  1. SUPERB photographs of the Man O War Jane! They’re SO alien aren’t they! Without true powers of locomotion, you could begin to argue that they aren’t even animals, so to speak.
    Lovely colours…

    Doug

  2. That’s one of nature’s critters I think I can do without, although your photo makes it look colourful and harmless!
    I can also do without the inhabitants of those webs. Maybe I won’t come rushing out to join you!
    The sun through that green leaf is spectacular. And the limestone holes – always something new, thank you.

  3. Doug. That’s just what Andrew my other half said. Maybe aliens are a “man thing”! I thought it looked more like something from a bubble machine (how girlie is that!). Fascinating to see it close up.

  4. Dragonstar. Yes it looks so harmless laying there minding it’s own business. The spiders completely gave me the creeps. I’m not good with spiders and had to just control my fear and march on (what a wimp!). I did try to take photos but my camera just wouldn’t focus on them. They were more like little red crabs with 6 pointed spikes on their backs. Made them look like a little star. Not very spidery, but their webs were about 4ft wide!

  5. I’m afraid I’m also a wimp when it comes to spiders, but those sound almost attractive.

  6. I know what you mean. They are “attractive” in a strange way… but they are still spiders!

  7. Hi there, Jane πŸ™‚

    Great to hear about your trip in this way – fantastic photos πŸ˜€

    Hope you are still having fun πŸ˜€

  8. Thanks Shirl. Yes, we are having a great time, but, as I only have a dial up internet connection, it’s hard to put up new posts. Lots when I get home though! Jane

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