The sighting of Portuguese men–of–war — also known as “floating terrors” — in an intertidal zone off Penghu’s Huxi Township (湖西) prompted warnings from local authorities for visitors to take precautions.
A man–of–war is a venomous, creature that resembles a jellyfish, but is in fact a siphonophore comprised of four symbiotic animals. Its tentacles, which can reach 50m in length while in water, can deliver a sting causing excruciating pain and sometimes death.
The creatures are almost never discovered alone and their sightings in Penghu are typically the result of tides or winds that push thousands of them into an area at a time, said Weng Yao-wen (翁耀汶), a local tour guide who recently discovered two of them dead.
Photo courtesy of Weng Yao-wen
“Men-of-war are highly venomous and their sting is far worse than a bee sting,” Weng said, adding that he alerted local authorities to protect tourists.
Even a deceased floating terror can deliver a sting, either from the intact body or from tentacles that have been shed after it died, the Penghu National Scenic Area office said.
A man-of-war’s sting can leave red welts for two or three days, the office said, adding that the pain is aggravated if the toxins work their way into the lymph nodes.
Allergy to the toxins can induce fever, shock or fatally disrupt heart or lung functions, the office said, calling on tourists to be alert on Penghu’s beaches.
It is not known if the presence of the creatures off Penghu was caused by the same winds that last month brought in unusually large numbers of Papuan jellyfish.
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