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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soundoff (725 Responses)
  1. devoted2jesus

    To bad there isn't the fossil record to prove that. Darwin himself said that lack of transitional forms in the fossil record would be a big problem for evolution.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Otis

    This is a Box Jellyfish people... and her survival is not an omen from God. Perhaps the fact that it completely enveloped her and she passed out has something to do with limiting the effects of the very lethal venom. Jellyfish nets Stinger netting along Australia's beaches are not 100% effective, but do warn swimmers to stay out of the water during the peak seasons which is there summer... our winter.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Satire for Jesus

    Yes. PRAISE DR. SEUSS this little girl will grow up to ??? Oh wait, maybe she'll just grow up and be the next Mao Tse Tung! DAMN YOU WHIMPY JELLYFISH for not saving the WORLD!!! Who's to say this was a good thing... Let's all come back here in a few years and reflect on what this girl contributes to society.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hammer Time

    all of you non-believers will burn.... in due time, the jewbots will rise and destroy your precious lives. The jewbots then shall claim our planet as their vessel and travel the cosmos. Get well soon little girl! i made you a kitty m(>^.^<)m

    April 27, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. barry

    you guys do know that no one has ever come back from the dead to tell us that, yes, there is, in fact, a heaven? until then, this will always be NOTHING MORE THAN faith....that is, a tiny hope within yourself, that this is what life on earth is about.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Satire for Jesus


    EVERYONE knows God made Jellyfish just for the movie Nemo. Only he knows why clown fish are impervious to their sting!!!

    DAMN! I'm wrong, Nemo almost died too!!!

    WHY GAWD, WHY Mr. DARWIN did you make these crazy creatures???

    April 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CM

    Yes Barry, faith, like the faith you put in the big bang, natural selection, evolution even with all the problems faced. Have you ever seen an oort cloud?? Has any one? Have you ever seen this fossil record anywhere other than on paper? Any body. You are using up alot of faith, too, just in the worng ideas

    April 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    Yes indeed, if there is "life" even on some other planet (HE) God created that too !!

    April 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jw

    The title of the article says it all...Girl stung by venomous box jellyfish ‘SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE’. So I thank YOU LORD, FOR SPARING THIS LITTLE GIRLS LIFE. Thank YOU LORD for YOUR GRACE AND MERCY which endureth forever.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. You serious?

    Eric: what 'BURN?' Are you serious?

    As for your question on morals? Societal evolution that led to the best chances of survival for the tribe. If members of the tribe killed each other off constantly, there is no tribe. Taking another's mate poses problems of territory and can ruin the chance for an organism to reproduce. In a tribal society, this is a problem. Hence, wrong. All of your 'morals' can be traced back to logical explainations due to tribal society evolution.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ben

    See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. Deuteronomy 32:39

    April 27, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Reality

    15 minutes go by, still no god believers answering the question.. how was god created

    religion explains the unexplainable

    April 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bruno

    atheists rule! NOT... ahhaah get it.. its a not joke... oh sorry you guys dont enjoy life you just try to prove everything..i forgot..

    April 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Anna

    Oh my God! Yes, I believe in God. No, I am not Christian. To give the Power of the Universe simple fatherly characteristics is limited thinking. God did not cause a miracle or save this one little girl. God has no personal stake in any of our lives. God is not a father or mother with human characteristics. God is the power behind all. Therefore: scientists study the natural world. If you don't believe in science then please give up your computer, cell phone, TV, car and electrical usage. If you choose not to acknowledge a father god who cares about every human, plant and animal then that is your right. If you choose to think of God as a big father in the sky with a long white beard...that is your right. Just don't cram your idea of God down my throat.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jordan

    Add "Death by Jellyfish" to the Ways I don't Want to Die list. Holy hell!

    April 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
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