Monday, 10 September 2007

The beautiful and the strange

Beautiful and deadly. How does nature think these things up? For those who do not know, this is a portuguese man o'war, a particularly nasty floating beast that I've always thought of as a jelly fish, but it is not one apparently. According to Wikipeida " it is commonly thought of as a jellyfish but is actually a siphonophor."
Okay then.

The sting is excruciating and can sometimes leave welt like scars for years after. The tentacles can extend up to thirty feet behind it. I just wonder why it is so beautiful.

Once again, I cut and paste liberally from Wikipeida.

"According to a study done by Dr. Geoffrey Isbister of Newcastle, Australia's Mater Hospital between 2003 and 2005, the best treatment for a sting is to apply hot water to the affected area. Hot water used in the study was fixed at 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). The hot water eases the pain of a sting by denaturing the toxins.[2]

Applying ice to the area of the sting is also a fairly effective way to suppress the pain. Ice works by making the toxins less active and reduces the sensation and therefore pain of the area of skin around the ice. Additionally, ice constricts blood vessels, reducing the speed at which the venom travels to other parts of the body, including the brain; heat has an opposite effect. It was originally thought that applying ice was the best way of dealing with Man O' War stings before the study was conducted. Lifesavers around the world still use ice to treat the stings of this species.

The Portuguese Man O' War is often confused with a jellyfish, which is incorrect and may lead to improper treatment of stings, as the venom is different. A second sting may lead to an allergic reaction.

The sail portion is covered in a slime which counteracts the sting from the tentacles, and can be used for a quick cure. Look for a beached Man O' War, to get the slime from the sail, as attempting to touch one in the water is dangerous as you may come in contact with the tentacles. A normal jelly fish does not have this slime nor remedy.

The Loggerhead Turtle is apparently immune to Man O' War toxins, as the turtles are commonly seen feeding on the Man O' War."
This picture was taken on Mayaro beach at Easter.
When we were growing up, there was a common assumption that the best treatment for a sting was to, ahem, empty a full bladder on the welts. Whether this started as some sort of demented homeopathy, who knows, but the trend continues up to today. So on top of being nearly half dead with pain, you were then subjected to even further indignities. Clearly these were the days before Antisan.

Does anyone remember ti marie or pricker bush? Does anyone under 40 even use the word "pricker" anymore? The leaves of this weed close tightly when touched and this trick never failed to amuse. These frondy leaves hid sharp little thorns that were commonly known as "prickers" and running barefoot everywhere, we lived with them as a necessary evil. One of the most remarkable things about this little plant is its premonition of dusk. With the setting of the sun, the leaves would close tightly and go to sleep for the night. With the closing of the ti marie we would know that it was time to head home as dark would be upon us soon.
Water water everywhere. It is rainy season.