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Portuguese Man-of-War sea creature - Physalia arethusa.
A colourful model of the Portuguese Man-of-War sea creature - Physalia arethusa.

Portuguese man-of-war Navigator

The Portuguese man-of-war is actually not a single animal, but a 'siphonophore', an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together.

Use the links below to navigate around the Portuguese man-of-war and discover more about this remarkable creature.

The float

The man-of-war floats on a gas-filled, blue to pink, translucent body called a 'float'. Above this there is a crest (only a few inches tall) that acts like a sail, moving the animal across the seas. It is the sail that gives the man-of-war its name, because it resembles old Portuguese warships.

Polyps anchoring the tentacles

Clusters of polyps anchor the tentacles under the float. There are 3 types of polyps: dactylozooid (that find and catch prey with poisonous stingers called nematocysts), gonozooid (that reproduce), and gastrozooid (that digest food, like a stomach).


The coiled, stinging tentacles can be up to 50m (165 feet) long.