Footprints in the Sand - Eco Trail
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Jellyfish can be found both offshore and inshore. The Gulf Coast is home to the Portuguese man o' war, the sea nettle jellyfish, and the box jellyfish. Jellyfish are some of the oldest creatures on the planet, having roamed the seas for at least 500 million years. Jellyfish have tiny stinging cells in their tentacles to stun or paralyze their prey before they eat them, so they are very dangerous.

Jellyfish Stings

Contact with a jellyfish can trigger millions of stinging cells called nematocysts to pierce the skin and inject venom, causing mild to severe pain and skin irritation. Even beached and dying or seemingly dead jellyfish can still sting when touched. Vinegar is the most effective remedy for jellyfish stings—contrary to popular belief, urine is ineffective and may even release more venom, making the pain worse. Cleansing the area with salt water is also effective. Jellyfish stings can potentially cause allergic reactions, so if you normally carry an epinephrine autoinjector, such as the EpiPen, bring it with you to the beach. A purple flag is flown to indicate the presence of dangerous marine life on the beach.

Sea Nettle Jellyfish

The sea nettle jellyfish, sometimes called the Atlantic sea nettle or East Coast sea nettle, is typically pale, pinkish or yellowish, often with more deeply colored stripes near the edges of its body. Sea nettles are carnivorous and feed on plankton, other jellies, and sometimes crustaceans. They are typically several inches in diameter and can have tentacles as long as five feet or more. Their transparent appearance makes them difficult for swimmers to see and avoid. The pain from a sting is moderate to severe.

Portuguese Man O' War

Technically, the Portuguese man o' war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which differs from jellyfish in that it is not actually a single organism, but a colony made up of many minute individuals called zooids. Each zooid is highly specialized and is similar in many ways to other individual animals, yet is incapable of independent survival.

The Portuguese man o' war's name is derived from the man-of-war, a 16th-century armed sailing ship. The creature is thought to resemble the ship's appearance when at full sail. Man o' wars are most commonly found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific and Indian oceans, but they have been known to show up in our waters from time to time.

Man o' war stings cause severe pain to humans, leaving whip-like, red welts on the skin that normally last two or three days. Stings can potentially cause death, although this is extremely rare.