South Florida: Beware of Portuguese galleys (“fake jellyfish”) – Le Courrier des Amériques


Portuguese galleys are, like (almost) every year, well present on the sand and in the water along the beaches of the Atlantic coast of Florida. They’ve existed since last weekend, at least in Broward and Miami Dade counties.

Americans (and accordingly their warning signs along the beaches, if present) tell them ” portuguese man o ‘war’, Or simply “Man or War”. In French we call it ” fake jellyfish “Occurring in tropical and subtropical waters and” portuguese galley due to its (unclear) resemblance to a Portuguese sailing ship. English-speaking people think he looks more like a Portuguese man from the war. In any case, it is the fault of the Portuguese (and not the Latin scholars who christened this jellyfish ” Physalia utriculus“)! (And still, in Florida, a lot of people call them “blue bottles.”

The Portuguese galley consists of a float on the surface, which looks like a balloon or banana of a beautiful blue or purple color. It is filled with air and blows out in the event of an air attack (birds, etc.). This float poses a major danger: children think it’s a toy, a ball on the sand, or worse, something to eat. However, highly stinging fibers are attached to the “balloon”, which can be toxic up to two months after the animal’s death. Jellyfish use it to paralyze small fish or shrimp. In humans, poison can cause death. It is rather rare, but in 10% of cases there are signs of severity: loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, abdominal or chest pain, vomiting, tachycardia, high blood pressure or muscle cramps.

Man O War, jellyfish, Portuguese cuisine
Man O War (Portuguese Gallery), a fake jellyfish, here on the beach in Miami in 2019.

FYI: Just because there are some on the beach doesn’t mean there will be any in the water, and just because you don’t see any on the beach doesn’t mean there aren’t any in the water. As a precaution, read the signs at the entrance to the beach, look at the color of the flag (blue or purple = “danger associated with marine life”) or ask lifeguards!

Don’t panic: if you see that everyone is swimming and that the flag is green … continue to enjoy a good holiday on the beaches of Florida (that’s all we wish you !!!).


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