Islanders and visitors have been warned to be careful after potentially deadly Portuguese man o' war washed up on beaches around Scilly and Cornwall. 

The Marine Conservation Society has said that although the creatures are rare, recent sightings suggest that more could be on their way.


The MSC's Dr Peter Richardson said: "We don't receive reports of Portuguese man o' war every year, but when we do they can turn up in big numbers, usually around about this time of year.


"In the last couple of weeks we've received several confirmed reports of Portuguese man o' war stranded on beaches around Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.


"With the earlier strandings in Ireland, these recent sightings could herald the arrival of more of the creatures as they get blown in from the Atlantic."


A sting from the tentacles of a Portuguese man o' war can be "agonising" and occasionally fatal. The public are warned not to touch the creatures under any circumstances. 


Dr Richardson said: "A stranded Portuguese man o' war looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon with blue ribbons attached, children will find it fascinating.


"So, if you're visiting a Cornish beach this weekend it's well worth making sure you know what these animals look like and that no one picks them up.


"We'd like people to report any sightings of Portuguese man o' war to our website so we get a better idea of the extent of the strandings."


Despite its jellyfish-like appearance, the man o' war is in fact a colony of specialised, identical creatures called zooids, with various forms and functions, all working together. 


The National Ocean Service explains: "Each of the four specialised parts of a man o’ war is responsible for a specific task, such as floating, capturing prey, feeding, and reproduction."

© All images on this site are either owned by This is Scilly, published under licence or reproduced with kind permission.