Beach-goers in Britain have been warned about an invasion of a deadly JELLYFISH-like creature.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has received reports of several Portuguese Men-of-War washing up on beaches in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.
This comes just weeks weeks after authorities in Ireland warned locals there about a spate of recent strandings of the potentially dangerous floating sea creature.
The bizarre stinging creature is not a single animal but a floating colony and its stings can be exceptionally painful and in extreme cases fatal.
MCS says the Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalis) are only occasionally reported in UK waters with the last significant UK strandings of the species coming in 2009 and 2012.
Dr Peter Richardson, Head of the MCS Biodiversity Programme, said: “We don’t receive reports of Portuguese Man-of-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 of 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.”
The Portuguese Man-of-War isn’t a jellyfish but is closely related, and consists of a floating colony of hydrozoans - lots of really tiny marine organisms living together and behaving collectively as one animal.
A Cornish pasty-shaped, transparent purple float is visible on the water’s surface whilst the blue, tentacle-like ‘fishing polyps’ that hang below the float can be tens of meters in length.
Mr Richardson added: “It’s the tentacle-like polyps that can give an agonising and potentially lethal sting,
“Because a stranded Portuguese Man of 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 Of War to our website so we get a better idea of the extent of the strandings.”
One of the animals was found this weekend at Portheras Cove, near Morvah, Cornwall by volunteers of the Friends of Portheras Cove environmental group.
Delia Webb from the group says it was found during a beach clean, lying among the plastic debris that had blown in on the high tide.
She added: “We find all sorts of strange and unusual items at our tiny Cornish cove, and we have had strandings of Portuguese Man of War before.
“They look amazingly beautiful, with hints of pink and blue, but thankfully we were aware of the potential danger lying beneath, and knew not to poke or prod it, just report the sighting to the MCS.”