When Box Jellyfish Attack

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The Australian box jellyfish (Irukandji species) has an incredibly powerful sting & is one of the most notorious creatures of the sea, releasing the Chironex fleckeri venom. Most people come across them when swimming, surfing, or snorkeling. Here’s everything you need to know about the box jellyfish.

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They move faster than other jellyfish species, at speeds of up to 20 feet per minute. Their nervous system is also more developed. Unlike any other jellyfish species, these creatures possess true eyes, with corneas and lenses. This means their vision goes beyond simply distinguishing between light and dark. Their bells can reach a 12-inch diameter and their tentacles can grow to be nearly 10 feet long, with each of them containing thousands of stinging cells. There are at least 51 box jellyfish species known as of 2018, and it’s possible that others are still to be discovered and described. Box jellyfish species, such as Chironex fleckeri and Irukandji jellyfish, are usually found in the tropical Indo-Pacific region. Their distribution includes the coasts of Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India or Vietnam. Other box jellyfish species can be found widely in tropical and subtropical oceans, as far north as California or Japan and as far south as New Zealand or South Africa. Box jellyfish tentacles have thousands of exploding cells called cnidocytes. They contain harpoon-shaped microscopic mechanisms, called nematocysts, which secrete venom. This makes the box jellyfish not only the most venomous creature of its kind but one of the most venomous creatures in the animal kingdom. Wearing pantyhose or a full body lycra suit effectively protects against the sting of a box jellyfish. The stinging cells are triggered by chemicals found on human skin, so they won’t fire on a synthetic surface. Flushing with vinegar remains a popular treatment which prevents undischarged nematocysts from releasing additional venom. One study, found that while this is true, vinegar may also increase the amount of venom already discharged. There are many remedies present in folklore, but they aren’t backed by any scientific evidence. The sting can be somewhat managed by the use of heat packs. Removal of tentacles must be done with a gloved hand or a towel to prevent further stings. It’s worth mentioning that the nematocysts can still fire if the jellyfish isn’t moving or if the tentacle has been separated from its bell.

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