Portuguese Men O' War washing up on North Carolina beach

Published: Jul. 7, 2015 at 11:14 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 10, 2015 at 2:08 AM EDT
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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWBT) - A warning if your summer travels take you to Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington, N.C. Several Portuguese Men O' War have washed up on a North Carolina beach.

It's not known exactly how many of the animals have washed ashore, although one frequent visitor claims to have seen at least six.

"They're huge," says Max Williams, who vacationed there over the 4th of July weekend. "The jellyfish may look dead, but I still wouldn't touch them."

And that's how you get stung.  The potentially deadly purple "jellyfish-like" creatures have been washing up on beaches all along the east coast in the past few days, some being spotted as far north as New Jersey.

The Man O' War is not a true jellyfish but a siphonophore, meaning it's not just one organism, but a colony of specialized minute organisms called zooids.  The organisms have tentacles that can grow from 10 to 30 feet long and marine biologists say their potentially deadly sting is far worse than what one would get from jellyfish normally found on N.C. or VA beaches.

It's somewhat rare to see the Man O' War in North Carolina or Virginia, but their rare appearance this week may be due to strong easterly winds that have been blowing onshore for more than a week now.

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