April 27th, 2010
11:19 AM ET

Girl stung by venomous box jellyfish 'shouldn't be alive'

A biologist researches the lethal nature of the box jellyfish.

To call 10-year-old Rachel Shardlow a survivor is an understatement.

In December, the girl tangled with a box jellyfish, one of the world's most venomous creatures, in the Calliope River near Gladstone, Australia.

"Usually when you see people who have been stung by box jellyfish with that number of the tentacle contacts on their body, it's usually in a morgue," Jamie Seymour, a zoology and tropical ecology associate professor at James Cook University told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The creature didn't just sting the girl. It enveloped her: Its tentacles wrapped around her limbs and wouldn't let go. She couldn't see or breathe. The creature, which is capable of killing an adult in four minutes, wrapped its tentacles tighter and knocked her unconscious.

"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," Seymour told ABC. "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."

After several weeks in the hospital Shardlow is still feeling the effects - but the fact she is feeling anything at all - let alone doing as well as she is baffles Seymour. For now, besides scarring and memory loss, she is doing well, her family told ABC.

ABC: Young stinger victim speaks out

There have been others who have survived being stung by the deadly jellyfish, but Seymour said many of them are stung quickly, but not to the extent Shardlow was and with as many tentacles wrapped around them, Seymour said.

Seymour and other Queensland researchers received a $40,000 grant to investigate just how lethal is the venom of Irukandji and its relative box jellyfish. They will also look for treatments to help those like Shardlow who are stung by them.

The jellyfish, found often in the Great Barrier Reef, can have as many as 15 tentacles on each corner of its bodies with nearly 5,000 stinging cells, according to a guide to sea creatures posted on the Great Barrier Reef site.

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Filed under: Australia • Health • Web Pulse • World
soundoff (725 Responses)
  1. Disgusted

    Wow, another miracle? Are you kidding? Anytime someone survives an extraordinary event, it's a miracle. Where is the reasoning in that? Goodness..........Well, to what end purpose would the miracle be? For all the so called Christians here claiming miracles, read your Bible and you see clearly that this was "time and unforeseen occurrence".(Ecc.9:11) The girl happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. Also, if really read your Bible you might have real Faith based on knowledge, rather than blindly soaking up illogical teaching that every wonderful event is a blessing or a miracle. Jesus performed miracles to show what he would do for all of us in the new Kingdom. Yes, the same Kingdom everyone prays for when they spew out the Lords pray at Matthew 6:9,10 in worthless way. If you want to see miracles, then preach about the Kingdom, you might even find out what a real blessing is like. Get in line with God's will and see things clearly and logically.2 Timothy 2;4,5

    Too bad people attribute things to God incorrectly based on lack of Bible knowledge, or none at all. This little girl plainly is a surviver and should be commended for her strength or the jelly fish was lacking venon.

    Why can't it simply be that she survived and let science find out why?

    April 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Phil Smisek

    Despite the fact of a miraculous recovery, I think the main question would be this:

    What is it about her physiology that allowed her to survive the incident?

    April 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Alicia


    April 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rusty

    Obviously many of you are not from Australia. Down under, the Australian Santa Claus is the miracle maker. He makes miracles, moonshine and he HATES jellyfish. If you don't believe me, read the preface of my Uncle Aunt's Bible. It explains everything in there.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ae Pucc

    I wonder if the sting-ray that killed Steve Irwin was from outer space? So glad that the young lady survived!! We are all the same but different, some peoples make up attracts lighting, some are made ill & die by eating pea-nut butter or shell fish, We will all know why when the space creatures came back to re-claim their protoplasm.


    April 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chase Johnson

    screw u athisis she survived because of luck and if u hate god dont be a dick by bashung other peoples faith

    April 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wildmaven

    Wow! What a story! It's sad that she has such long-lasting injuries, but absolutely amazing that she survived at all.

    What's sad is that, in this day an age, people cannot simply accept that others have different belief systems and feel the need to disrupt an otherwise amazing story with flaming.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lucas

    Obviously this is the fault of the criminal Bush administration.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. john

    People please... Science cannot prove or disprove God until someone figures out how to measure the unmeasurable. (the God particle is not a proof of God, it's the slang for the theoretical particle that provides mass, which makes the universe as we know it possible) Science does not try to prove or disprove God, it cannot. Besides, many, many scientists are people of faith who believe in God just as much as you do. Science investigates how the world works the way it does, not why. God provides the answer to the "why" question, if you look. So studying the jellyfish and Rachel can possibly provide an explanation as to how she survived, possibly helping many others to survive a similar "attack." God is inscrutable and unexplainable, so even the faithful cannot explain the motives and actions of God. To claim that you know is incredibly vain and egotistical. Atheists: just because someone does not agree with you does not mean they are stupid or naive, maybe they've seen evidence you haven't, so don't judge. Believers: "judge not lest ye be judged" Science has provided food for the hungry, cures for the sick and all manner of miracles that we take for granted. If you want to believe that it is evil, then stop being a hypocrite and get off the computer, stop using modern medicine and go live like the Amish. They at least practice what they preach. Thank you and God bless everyone, including scientists as well as the ignorant.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. wrex

    @dave – that was probably the most logical, well-written argument I've ever read – well done, sir. Personally, I find the postings of both atheists AND "believers" to be sickening. How about some well wishes for the little girl, and leave your own beliefs at the door – they'll be there on your way out, I assure you. No one would want them but you, anyway.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Junebugj

    Fiona, no one's being violent towards this girl. What planet are you from?

    April 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Matt

    The ignorance of the religious astounds me.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Freethought

    "screw u athisis she survived because of luck and if u hate god dont be a dick by bashung other peoples faith"

    As in the same way you just bashed our non-faith?

    Just sayin'

    April 27, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Victoria

    Here's hoping Rachel will have a complete recovery! 😀

    Oh man, I would be scared stiff if I jellyfish got me like that, let alone one of the most deadly creatures in the animal kingdom DX

    April 27, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JC

    This is truly amazing!! My prayers are with Rachel for a speedy recovery.

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart and
    lean not on your own understanding;
    in all ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path. Proverbs 3,5-6

    I choose to believe!!!!!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
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