JellyFish Facts

Killer Jellyfish

Killer Jellyfish picture

Killer Jellyfish

The jellyfish is an intriguing marine animal found almost everywhere in the oceans of the world. There are 200 species of jellyfish and they come in all sizes, shapes and colors. The basic feature is a bell or umbrella-like body which is filled with a gelatinous substance, and tentacles dangling from underneath this body. The jellyfish is composed of 95% water, and is a delicate creature. The jellyfish captures its prey with its tentacles by injecting a venom that immobilises the prey. The potency of this venom is different in the various types of jellyfish. Some of the jellyfish stings have no effect on humans, while some can cause death in a few seconds.

The warm waters of the northern Australia and Indo-pacific is home to one of the most deadly jellyfish. They are categorized as Cubozoans, as they have a cube shaped body, and are different from the other jellyfish, which are categorized as Scyphozoans. This jellyfish is generally referred to as the Box Jellyfish or the Sea Wasp. They are found on the coastal waters of Australia, Philippines, Hawaii, Vietnam and other tropical areas. The Chironex fleckeri and the Carukia barnesi are the two among a total of 19 species of box jellyfish, which are the most venomous, and their sting can prove fatal to a human being. The other species of box jellyfish are not that dangerous.

Since 1954 there have been 5,568 deaths by the sting of the box jellyfish. Sindasites are harpooned shaped needles that inject the venom into the victim. Each tentacle of the box jellyfish has 500,000 such sindasites. The venom is very potent and just a brush with the tentacle of a mature box jellyfish can cause heart failure and death within minutes. Another disconcerting fact about this jellyfish is that it actively hunts its prey, unlike other jellies who just drift along. It can move at a speed of three and a half knots in the water, that is about 1.8 meters per second.

The most risky months are from October to May, when the box jellyfish is found in abundance. Even in other months, occasional sightings and stings have been reported. When the waters of the sea is calm and there is a light onshore breeze, there are greater chances of encountering these jellyfish.

When a person is stung by the box jellyfish, the best known first-aid, is to douse the affected area with vinegar. This is known to neutralise the nematocysts which have not yet fired. The vinegar will not cause any reduction in pain, and the pain is usually quite excruciating. After dousing the stung area for at least 30 seconds, one should try and remove any tentacles that are still sticking to the skin of the victim. This has to be done by tweezers or wearing rubber gloves or a towel, as the tentacles should not come in contact with any bare skin. You should remember never to rub the affected area, as this will cause more nematocysts to fire venom into the blood stream. The sting of the Chironex fleckeri species of the box jellyfish, causes a cardiac arrest, and so Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) takes priority over all treatments, including the application of vinegar.

Learn more about Jellyfish Stings and Jellyfish Safety

Learn more about Jellyfish, different Jellyfish Species, general Jellyfish Information, Jellyfish Pets and Jellyfish Safety

Written by and Sudarsana Sinha.

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