Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 15:49 UK

Rare jellyfish is spotted in cove

Portuguese man-of-war (Pic: Chris Lavis)
One or two Portuguese man-of-wars get washed up every year

A rare Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish has been discovered in a cove in Devon.

The creature was photographed and later captured in a bucket by a local man, Chris Lavis, who was out walking his dog at Smuggler's Cove, near Holcombe.

Mr Lavis, who still lives in the bungalow he was born in, said he had not seen any of the jellyfish in the cove for nearly 50 years.

An aquarium said it was not unheard of for them to be found. The animals have tentacles which can give a nasty sting.

Tank specimens

Mr Lavis found the creature slightly out of the water stuck on seaweed about 4m (13ft) away from a sea wall in the cove.

Mr Lavis said: "I just saw this thing in the water like a polythene bag.

"I thought it looked like a Portuguese man-of-war. I haven't seen one of those in the cove since I was about 14.

"I remember when I was at school there were so many of them about we actually had them in science lessons, floating in tanks."

He later retrieved the creature in a bucket, saying: "I did that mainly to ensure it could not sting anybody".

He plans to contact an aquarium to see if it could added to a collection.

Jellyfish 'invasions'

Paul Cox, head of science and learning at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, said: "It's not completely unheard of for them to appear at this time of year. We usually get one or two.

"They usually stay out in warmer, deeper water, but can get blown this way by southwesterly winds."

He added there had been a number of man-of-war "invasions" in the past, with hundreds of the creatures washing up in the same place.

The last one was recorded in 1954.

Portuguese man-of-war (Pic: Chris Lavis)
The man-of-war has stinging tentacles which can grow up to 50m

Although commonly known as jellyfish, they are actually floating colonies of closely-related animals called hydrozoans - small and plant-shaped, with a stalk and tentacles.

These tentacles can grow up to 50m (164ft) long and are used to catch fish and other marine life.

These are then paralysed or killed with using a powerful sting.

Anyone who comes into contact with the tentacles usually receives painful stings which leave red lesions and ulcerations.

However, some swimmers have died from a sting after going into severe anaphylactic shock.

Anyone stung should immediately remove any tentacles and immerse the affected area in either hot or iced water for 20 minutes.

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