|Dauphin Island Chamber of Commerce
While they may be a bit of a nuisance to beach-goers, the Portuguese man-o-war is a beautiful and fascinating
creature found worldwide in warm oceans. Each man-o-war is actually a colony of highly-specialized animals
working to capture small prey, digest that food, and float along the surface of the seas. While their stings can be
painful, it is incredibly rare that someone dies from an encounter.
Why are they here? The men-o-war and their blue-tinted cousins, by-the-wind sailors and blue buttons, are at the
mercy of the surface winds and currents. The animals are found in scattered patches throughout the Gulf of
Mexico, and sadly meet their demise when the wind is just right (or wrong, for them). Interestingly, a population of
men-o-war develop with right-curling floats and left-curling floats that catch the wind differently. This ensures that
only 1/2 of the that group will be blown into the same shore at one time!
On Dauphin Island, the beach is occasionally blanketed with these magnificent animals. Once on the beach, each
animal quickly dies, and leaves no trace after only a day or two. Just because they are on the beach doesn't mean
the tentacles can't still sting. It is best to use caution when observing them, or walking along the beach.
Thankfully, their bright blue color and gas-filled floats make them hard to miss. Take the opportunity to see them
now, because they typically are only on our beaches for a few days each year.
A good collection of information is in this excerpt from "Living Beaches of Georgia and the Carolinas: A
Beachcomber's Guide" By Blair Witherington, Dawn Witherington