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Portuguese Man of War discovered at Dungeness beach

A potentially dangerous, jellyfish-like creature was found on a Kent beach this morning.

The blue-tinted transparent blob was discovered by David Gower at Dungeness on Romney Marsh, during a beach clean.

This Portugese Man of War was found on Dungeness beach this morning. Picture: David Gower
This Portugese Man of War was found on Dungeness beach this morning. Picture: David Gower

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) confirmed it is a Portuguese Man of War, which are often mistaken for a jellyfish but is, in fact, a colony of hydrozoans - so a ‘they’ rather than an ‘it’.

They are characterised by an oval, transparent float with many hanging ‘fishing polyps’ which can be tens of metres long.

The sting of a Portuguese Man of War is extremely powerful and as such, can be dangerous to humans.

It is a rare sighting on UK shores, although there has been a recent influx of reports of them on the South West coast.

Dr Peter Richardson, head of ocean recovery at the MCS, said: "Through our online jellyfish survey, we started receiving reports of Portuguese Man of War on beaches in south Wales in September.

"Through October we have continued to receive reports of them from Devon and Cornwall beaches, with mass strandings in Cornwall earlier this month.

"The weather will be blowing them in from the Atlantic as part of another major Portuguese Man of War stranding event.

"The last stranding, in similar conditions, was in 2017 and they seem to be getting more frequent since we started our survey in 2003."

Dr Richardson urges people not to touch them because of their "very powerful sting", but asks for any sightings to be reported to the MCS to that they can understand the extent of this stranding event.

The Portuguese Man of War discovery this morning is not the only strange sighting to be found on Kent's beaches.

Earlier this year, millions of sand gapers, also known as soft shell clams, were found on Littlestone beach.

In 2018, more than 25 children were stung by jellyfish at the beach in Folkestone.

The creatures could be seen in the sea 'every couple of metres' and it is believed they had been enticed inland by the warmer shallow waters.

And in 2008, a woman swimming the English Channel was stung on the ear by a jellyfish.

The MCS has worked closely with the University of Exeter on the Jellyfish Survey.

In 2014 they published the UK distributions and seasonality of eight jellyfish and jellyfish-like species, including the Portuguese Man of War, based on the data collected from the survey.

This was the first time UK jellyfish had been mapped in over 40 years, and, using the power of citizen science, the charity intends to track changes in jellyfish bloom distribution and seasonality over time.

Professor Brendan Godley, chair in conservation science at the University of Exeter, said: “The Marine Conservation Society’s Jellyfish Survey is an incredibly helpful tool in mapping these sort of mass stranding events of jellyfish.

"Since beginning to collect information in 2003, the survey has built up a fantastic data set which helps us understand how jellyfish species react to environmental changes.

"Identifying where jellyfish are blooming around UK shores gives an insight into how they are reacting to the effects of climate change such as ocean warming.

"The current influx is, no doubt, resultant from the extremely strong winds that we have been enduring in the southwest."

To help contribute to the charity’s ongoing Jellyfish Survey, sightings of jellyfish and other animals can be reported here.

Read more: All the latest news from Romney Marsh

Escaped animals, unusual finds and news from the RSPCA can all be found here

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