Wildlife officials in New Jersey have begun investigating the sudden appearance of dozens of Portuguese man-of-wars (Physalia physalis) on its shores these past couple of weeks. The latest one was spotted in Stone Harbor over the weekend.
Ann Delaney was taking a stroll along the beach Sunday morning when she found one of the sea creatures on the sand.
"I walk (the beach) every morning and I usually pick up plastic, and I thought it was a colorful Ziplock bag," Delaney said. "I remember reading a post about the man-of-war found on Long Beach Island.
"I realized that it could be that. So I didn't touch it. I touched it with my shoe but I didn't pick it up."
Delaney is just one of many beachgoers who spotted Portuguese man-of-wars along the coast of Cape May County and southern Ocean County.
According to reports, the first of the sea creatures was discovered in Harvey Cedars located on Long Beach Island on June 21.
Local officials believe the man-of-wars could have been brought to shore by the blowing of the northeast wind.
The Portuguese man-of-war is known for its tentacles that can grow between 10 to 30 feet in length. Marine biologists warn about the sea creature's very painful sting, which is worse than the sting of common jellyfish found in the area.
Once stung, the venom of the man-of-war can cause several illnesses in the victim including chest pain, abdominal pain, abnormal pulse rate, headaches, spasms and muscle pain. It can also cause the individual to collapse and experience weakness and numbness and pain in the arms and legs.
Associate biology professor Dr. Paul Bologna of Montclair State University explained that the sting of the Portuguese man-of-war can cause the most pain, and for people who suffer from allergic reactions to stings, it can cause them to go into shock.
Experts have advised beachgoers not to touch or pick up the man-of-wars to avoid getting stung, and to be alert when swimming as the creatures have long tentacles. They should also contact local lifeguards so that they can properly dispose of the dead sea creatures washed up on the beach.