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Portuguese man-of-war, Physalia physalis
from the Pacific Ocean (Hawaiian Islands)
Photographic portrait by Eric Röttinger
Source: EMBO Winners 2014

The man-of-war is a siphonophore [a class of Cnidarians in the order Hydrozoa where each specimen is actually a colony composed of many individual animals], in this case made up of four types of polyps that form a colony.

  • The pneumatophore is a gas-filled filled polyp that floats on the water surface and allows the colony to sail across the oceans.
  • The polyps that form the long and venomous tentacles (dactylozoids) are responsible for catching the prey,
  • supplying the gastrozoids (polyps in charge of digestion) with food.
  • The fourth type of polyps, the gonozoids, are in charge of sexual reproduction

Eric Röttinger is a developmental biologist and Group-leader at the Institute for Research on Cancer and Aging in Nice (France) and co-founder of the non-profit organization Kahi Kai (‘one ocean’ in native Hawaiian)

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