When Animals Attack 4: The Box Jellyfish
The Box Jellyfish has earned quite a reputation as being one of the world’s deadliest animals but contrary to popular belief, a sting from the Box Jellyfish isn’t always a death sentence as history has proven.
These animals kill humans faster than any other venomous animal we know
10-year-old Rachel Shardlow came into contact with the jellyfish while swimming in an estuary in Queensland, Australia in December of 2009. When she was pulled from the river, she still had the stinging tentacles clinging to her limbs. She had lost her vision, stopped breathing and fell unconscious in the arms of her brother. Luckily, the girl miraculously survived the ordeal.
In 2011, famed swimmer Diana Nyad was stung by not one, but an entire school of Box Jellyfish.
There are no exact figures that show how many deaths are caused by the Box Jellyfish but it has been suggested that dozens of people and perhaps more than 100 or more die each year from the many species (around 50) of box jellyfish that exist in our oceans.
Box Jellyfish get their name from the cube-like shape of their bell and are pale blue and transparent in color. They have up 15 tentacles that grow from each corner of the bell, each containing around 5,000 stinging cells. When triggered they release an incredibly potent venom that can cause everything from inflammation to rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, back pain, brain haemorrhage and Irukandji syndrome.
Related: When Animals Attack 5: The Cassowary
Whereas most jellyfish in our oceans just drift along, the Box Jellyfish has developed the ability to actually ‘move’ through the water reaching speeds of up to four knots. They also have 24 eyes grouped in clusters of six on the four sides of their bell. Each cluster includes a pair of eyes with a sophisticated lens, retina, iris and cornea.
Box Jellyfish Quick Facts
- What is the scientific name for the Box Jellyfish? Cubozoa
- What size can the Box Jellyfish grow to? They can grow up to 10 feet long and 10 inch across.
- How heavy is the Box Jellyfish? They can reach a weight of up to 4.4 lbs.
- Do Box Jellyfish sleep? Box Jellyfish sleep during the night and hunt during the day. They sleep on the ocean floor.
- What Does the Box Jellyfish eat? They are carnivores feeding mainly on Annelid worms, shrimps, prawns, crayfish, krill and small fish.
- How do they catch their prey? They will use their sting to paralyze their prey and then they will pull their prey into their mouth. They eat their prey whole and in less than one minute.
- How do they reproduce? They produce both, sexually and asexually. Both genders have the ability to offer both sperm and eggs independently. The sperm and eggs are released into the water. When these mix, it creates larvae. These larvae then produce clones of themselves which stay attached until they become adults.
- Do they have predators? Sea turtles are their main predator although some large fish will also feed upon Box Jellyfish.
- Can you survive a Box Jellyfish Sting? The sting of Box Jellyfish is so harmful that even if you survive it, you will probably have permanent damage to your body.
Treatment for a Box Jellyfish Sting
First off, forget what you may have heard, you need to make sure that you DON’T do the following:
- Don’t rub sand on the wound.
- Don’t use soap to clean the area where you’ve been stung.
- Don’t rub alcohol on the wound.
- Do not urinate on the wound.
All of these will just spread the venom and increase the risk of infection. Instead, this is what you should do:
1) Get them out of the water. The first thing that you need to do is to get the victim out of the water and onto dry land.
2) Circulation and breathing. As soon as the victim has been removed from the water you need to check their blood circulation and breathing.
3) Using Vinegar. The Australian Resuscitation Council recommends applying vinegar to the area where you get stung. This deactivates any stinging organelles that have not yet fired off venom. However, if the organelle has already fired off, then do not use vinegar as they could potentially let off more venom.
4) Cleaning with water. You should avoid using regular water to clean the affected area. Instead, use physiological saline solution or sea water to clean the area affected by the sting.
5) Apply cold over the sting. Do not apply ice directly on the injury, rap it up in a cloth or towel. Do this for about 15 minutes.
6) Remove tentacles. Remove any remains of a jellyfish tentacle on the skin using tweezers or a credit card. Wear gloves, never use your bare hands.
7) Get help. If the pain is very severe or the victim’s state worsens, go to the nearest medical centre as soon as possible.
How to Prevent a Jellyfish Sting
- Keep an eye out for flags that may be used by lifeguards to show that there are jellyfish in the water and that there is a risk of getting stung.
- If you see any jellyfish washed up on the shore; make sure you don’t touch them and be careful with kids as their inquisitiveness means they are prone to being stung when playing on the shore.
- You can buy a special cream from chemists which acts as protection against sunburn and jellyfish stings.
While researching for this post, I came across an article about a potential antidote to a potentially lethal box jellyfish sting that had been discovered by Australian researchers. You can read that article here.