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Venomous marine organisms – blue bottles washed ashore in Mumbai

MUMBAI: Several ‘Portuguese Man O’ War’, a venomous colonial marine organism commonly known as blue bottle, washed ashore at Marine Drive and Girgaum beach on Saturday. While the police were trying to keep the crowds away from the sea in the wake of recent drownings at Marine Drive, curious beach-walkers tried to touch the beached organisms that can deliver a painful sting.

“There is a lack of awareness about marine life among the public and the authorities,” said marine conservationist Pradip Patade who is associated with Marine Life Of Mumbai (MLOM), an initiative aimed at raising awareness about the city’s marine biodiversity and the need to conserve it by conducting marine walks along the city’s beaches. “Officials from the public health and fisheries departments should monitor city beaches during the monsoons and take necessary measures to avoid accidents,” he added.

Despite its outward appearance, the blue bottle is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, a colonial organism composed of several individual animals called zooids. It gets its name from the uppermost part, a gas-filled bladder, which remains at the surface and resembles an old warship. Its long, thin tentacles bear venom-filled thread-like structures that are used to paralyze and kill prey and can deliver a painful sting to humans too.

While blue bottles are a common sight on Mumbai’s beaches in the monsoon, they can be dangerous even when they appear dead, marine biologist Abhishek Jamalabad explained. Certain zooids of the colony die when the organism is beached. But the stinging zooids stay alive and can sting when touched, Jamalabad said.

Assistant commissioner (D ward) Devidas Kshirsagar told TOI that he would inform the fisheries department and the public health department of the BMC so that necessary measures can be taken.



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