A box jellyfish, one of the deadliest venomous creatures, stung a 10-year-old girl swimming in an Australian river, and she lived to share her experience with the scientists and the world.
Last December, Rachael Shardlow was swimming 23 kilometers (14 miles) upstream from the Pacific Ocean in the Calliope River in Queensland, Australia, when her leg was entangled in the tentacles of a box jellyfish, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Shardlow was rendered unconscious by the sting and would have most likely died had she not been saved from drowning by her 13-year-old brother. Many victims have gone into shock and drowned in the ocean after being stung.
Professor Jamie Seymour from James Cook University took some time to comment on the severity of the sting:
“I don't know of anybody in the entire literature where we've studied this where someone has had such an extensive sting that has survived. When I first saw the pictures of the injuries I just went, 'You know, to be honest, this kid should not be alive.' I mean they are horrific,” Seymour told the ABC.
Box jellyfish (Chiropsalmus quadrumanus) are also known as sea wasps, stingers, or jelly wasps. They are frequently found in warm salt-water environments around Australia.
Attempts to use anti-venom to combat box jellyfish stings have been unsuccessful. Most victims suffer through intense pain delivered via the sting to their nervous system that makes it almost impossible to swim to shore after being stung. Scientists have found that the venom is made up of a unique family of proteins that are difficult to study.
Scientists from the Australia's National Science Foundation have labeled 50 or more species of box jellyfish as “highly toxic.” The jellyfish originally attracted scientists' attention due to its deadly toxicity, as well as its curious system of vision—a single jellyfish can have up to 24 eyes.