A siphonophore in the waters off Hawaii

I was snorkeling recently when I saw this strange tubular stringy thing. That’s not a scientific term. My first thought was that it was a Chained Salp, a tunicate that is a colony of individual Salps. But this one seemed a bit different. There was the main tube, but also thinner strings hanging off it.

I started taking photos, which was a bit of a trick in the lumpy swell. I wasn’t worried about getting too close since Chained Salps are harmless. I wasn’t worried until I got too close and realized I’d been stung on the hand by some those tendrils! That was enough for me and I headed to shore.

Back at the house, I couldn’t identify it in my book so I emailed a fellow snorkeler who is well-versed in these sort of things. She had encountered these before and identified it as a Siphonophore (Thanks, Wendy.). Like the Chained Salp, this is a colony of individuals, but unlike the harmless salps, siphonophores have stinging tentacles which they use to catch prey.

Possibly the best known Siphonophore is the Portugese Man-Of-War, one of which had stung a fellow snorkeler just a few days earlier. His wounds were very painful, but I got off easily, with just red welts and a mild burning sensation for a couple of hours.

A siphonophore in the waters off Hawaii

7 thoughts on “Siphonophore

    1. Graham Post author

      I knew the man of war was one, but I didn’t realize there were a lot of other members in the family, otherwise I’d have been more careful around it!


Comments are closed.