Warnings as Portuguese Man O’War 'jellyfish' with 'nasty sting' spotted on UK coast

Portuguese Man O'War are commonly mistaken for a jellyfish. Credit: Samantha Barnes

Visitors to Devon are being warned to not touch a 'weird and wonderful' aquatic animal that has been spotted floating in the water and washed up on the beach.

The Portuguese Man O' War is often mistaken for a jellyfish with its large translucent purple float and long blueish-violet tentacles.

The creature was spotted on Wednesday 23 August in Wembury by kayaker Samantha Barnes.

Wembury Marine Centre also reported that many people had seen them washing up on the beach over the past few days.

Devon Wildlife Trust said: "This weird and wonderful creature may look like a jellyfish, but it's actually made up of separate organisms working together.

"Much like a bee hive, each individual animal (called a zooid) has a specific function, for example, feeding, and one cannot survive without the others.

"We've also had a few reports of them washing up on Wembury beach over the past few days. They can give a nasty sting, so it's best to admire from afar."

The Portuguese Man O'War lives at the surface of the open ocean and surprisingly cannot swim. The aquatic lifeform is at the mercy of the winds which is why they often end up washed ashore after big storms.

The public is being warned to watch the creatures from afar because of their powerful sting. A spokesperson for the Devon Wildlife Trust said: "It's the tentacles that you need to watch out for too - they can sting long after the animal has died.

"These fascinating creatures are to be looked at and not touched. We usually see them arriving on our shores in Autumn, so seeing them this early is surprising.

"We are asking the public to admire these creatures from afar and not get too close.”

They are often hard to miss and have a large translucent purple float with the crest tipped with pink. They also have long blueish-violet tentacles.

Their float is often seen bobbing on the surface of the sea, sometimes caught in mats of seaweed. They lose their colour quickly after stranding and can appear translucent with just a tinge of purple after a while ashore.

They are very common in UK waters are are blown to the South West by westerly winds. They are largely seen in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly but can be as far north as Cumbria.