How is a Portuguese Man O’ War actually a combination of different animals?


How is a Portuguese Man O’ War actually a combination of different animals?

In: Biology

[This]( is a sea anemone. Basically a pouch with tentacles, right? [Jellyfish]( are basically the same thing but upside down. This kind of animal is called a cnidarian. Many cnidarians are capable of reproducing by budding, as illustrated by [this hydra]( Basically a little replica grows off the parent and eventually pops off, becoming a separate critter.

But what if it never disconnects? Then you get a whole bunch of connected cnidarians. The most famous version of this is [coral](,w_1920,f_auto/SPL-C0197444-Leather_coral_eyjqll.jpg). Basically if you look closely at a coral, you’ll find it looks a lot like a ton of teeny tiny little anemones all stuck together. There was an original polyp that produced a bunch more polyps through budding, but instead of splitting up and becoming independent they stayed stuck together.

Essentially, this is how a portugese man O war works. Except while the polyps in a piece of coral all look alike, the ones in a man o war look different from each other. It’s maybe easier to understand in some other relatives of the man o war which are more spread-out. [here]( is one such relative. First imagine a coral, but instead of the polyps being all in a kind of lump they are stretched out in a line. Then look, you’ve got some bell shaped ones on the top with a big body and no tentacles then behind it some ones that are mostly tentacles with a small body. Each specialized to do a job. [this cool video]( explains how they grow. Because a portugese man o war is all jammed together underneath the float, it’s a bit harder to see the individual polyps, but [they are there](, lined up beneath the float.

So basically, it’s a combination of different animals in the sense that it’s built like a bunch of jellyfish or sea anemones stuck together to each other hanging off the bottom of a float, specialized for different tasks like catching food, digesting it, and reproducing. Don’t get confused and think they are different species though, they are all genetically identical and budded off the first one in the same way that hydra is budding off the other hydra in the picture I showed earlier.