OKALOOSA ISLAND, Fla. (WKRG) — A streak of teal and turquoise is marking the high-tide line along Okaloosa County beaches. Though they might look like little plastic bags, they are venomous Man o’ Wars that are drying up along the shore.

WKRG News 5 found the creatures washed up at Princess Beach near the Eglin Air Force Base installment.

Marine Ecologist Brennan Wehrhahn with Aquatech Eco Consultants explained the creatures.

“They’re natural, they’re found here in the Gulf, in the southern Atlantic, but they’re interesting because there’s they’re pretty closely related to jellyfish, but they’re completely different,” said Wehrhahn. “What makes them different is that a jellyfish is a singular Organism whereas a Man o’ War is a colony of multiple organisms or zooids. So Man o’ Wars are actually a colony of multiple organisms that are clones of each other.”

Man o’ Wars are called different names depending on where they are found but Wehrhahn said they are all the same. The Portuguese Man o’ War got its name based on how they look.

“The bag is called the sail and that’s where Portuguese Man o’ War actually get their name from,” said Wehrhahn. “Portuguese has nothing to do with being found off Portugal or anything like that, they actually get their name because they look like the rigging of the sails found on a Portuguese warship from the 17th century.”

Man o’ War tentacles can range from 30 feet to more than 100 feet under the water’s surface. The ones found in Northwest Florida right now are smaller.

“They’re predators as well, and so their lifespan and prey are gonna determine their size,” said Wehrhahn. “They hunt on fish and small crustaceans.”

Having dozens and hundreds of them scattered along a beach happens every few years based on the winds.

“So that’s actually an evolutionary flaw with the Man o’ War,” said Wehrhahn. “Jellyfish cannot fight ocean currents, but jellyfish are able to move up and down in the water column. Man o’ Wars cannot at all and they strictly use their sail to catch current and wind, to propel them, and so if you’re having high periods of South flowing winds, you’re gonna find more Man o’ Wars on shore.”

Man O’ War stings pack a punch

Wehrhahn said the best practice is to stay away from a Man O’ War whether they look dead or not.

“If you were to get stung by a Man o’ War, that is way more serious sting than a jellyfish because the Man o’ War tentacles actually has a Barb on them that releases venom,” said Wehrhahn. “That venom is intended to paralyze its prey, usually small fish, but it can be painful and sometimes life-threatening to humans.”

With them already lining Northwest Florida beaches, dried-up Man O’ Wars provide great nutrition for the nearby sand dunes. Or they will likely get cleaned up by beach patrol staff.