Video of a stinging, gelatinous sea creature beached on the Texas Gulf Coast is drawing attention — and unexpected compassion.
The video, shared on social media Jan. 5 by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, shows a Portuguese man-o-war plopped on a Galveston beach at sunrise.
Visitors to Texas beaches have likely come across these colorful critters before, strewn motionless across the sand. And know better than to touch them, as they pack a painful sting.
It’s less common to see one moving around — but beachgoer Raymond Cruz witnessed just that, and caught on camera: the gaseous bubble at the top of the man-o-war’s body rises up, and almost appears to be pointing, before slowly collapsing back down.
A simple movement, but one that has many speculating, assigning meaning to the movements of a being that does not have a brain.
Brainless or not, “he is kinda cute,” one person commented on the post.
What is this ooey gooey cutie trying to tell us, they ponder.
“Am I the only one who sees this thing reaching out as if to say, ‘help me!’” one person commented on the department’s post.
“So very sad! It’s reaching out toward the water as the wave approaches,” said another.
While a man-o-war isn’t a jellyfish — but rather a member of a separate species called siphonophores — it is similar in appearance and shares many of the same traits, including tentacles that deliver a potent sting upon contact.
Even when dead, the stingers often still sting, according to the wildlife agency. When a flotilla of the animals is brought close to shore by the wind and waves, turning a beach into a minefield, visitors should watch their step as if it were so.
A brush with a man-o-war’s tendrils can ruin a beach day, or in very rare cases, take a life, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“While the man o’ war’s sting is rarely deadly to people, it packs a painful punch and causes welts on exposed skin,” the agency said.
Still, many who saw the man-o-war waving on the beach were surprised to feel a pang of sadness for its plight.
“I somehow feel sorry for this one,” a comment said.
“Regardless of the pain it inflicts I hate seeing it suffer,” read another.
“I never thought it was possible to feel anthropomorphic compassion for these creatures, but here you go,” a user wrote.
“Omg,” commented another. “Why is this video depressing.”
Truly, the man-o-war’s sting hurts most when it touches the heart.