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Fish paralyzed by Man O’ War tentacles – Blue Planet II

The tentacles of the Portuguese Man o’ war (Physalia physalis) are beautiful as they float down into the water… but fish and humans, beware: These tentacles are venomous. They can sting, and they catch and reel in fish for food. Blue Planet II captures this food chain phenomenon with a fish that can’t escape its fate.

The best part: This marine creature is not one creature. It’s a siphonophore, a colonial organism made from different kinds of connected life forms. From National Geographic:

The man-of-war comprises four separate polyps. It gets its name from the uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, which sits above the water and somewhat resembles an old warship at full sail. Man-of-wars are also known as bluebottles for the purple-blue color of their pneumatophores.

The tentacles are the man-of-war’s second organism. These long, thin tendrils can extend 165 feet in length below the surface, although 30 feet is more the average. They are covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures. For humans, a man-of-war sting is excruciatingly painful, but rarely deadly. But beware—even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a sting.

Muscles in the tentacles draw prey up to a polyp containing the gastrozooids or digestive organisms. A fourth polyp contains the reproductive organisms.

Related reading: Nomeus gronovii, the man-of-war fish.

Definitely watch this next: The Portuguese Man-of-War Up Close. Also: There’s no such thing as a jellyfish.

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