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. Arike

    You Serious:
    I visit a lot of people on psych wards that used their "logical" thoughts. That's not really saying much. Thank GOD for seraquel, trazadone, depakote, etc...

    You call it naive. OK. That's what you call it. And you're entitled to believe that. And that's ok too. Now what? And I do believe that He is all knowing and all powerful and that's ok.

    And speaking of Proof. You can't see electricity to know that it is there and believe that it works. Of course there have been gadgets built to tap into it. Imagine what the naysayers said when Ben Franklin came up with it. I can picture it now, "electricity, electricity, electricity, what is this electricity you crazy people are talking about!!! There is no such thing!!!"

    Oh wait, I have another one, "Fire. Fire? The idea was probably lucacris.
    Back to proof: The stories of countless people who have witnessed Gods amazing grace. More proof? Jesus Christ. He died. 3 days later he rose. What do scientists have to say about that?

    Just like electricity, you can tap into Gods power. I know it.
    Lastly, I'm the proof!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    I have a weak mind that can't deal with the sometimes cold, brutal nature of reality so I lean on my crutch to get me through the day: God. He makes me feel better about everything, and every time something good happens I attribute it to Him because he's so great, but anytime something bad happens God has nothing to do with it. He makes all natural disasters and kills millions of people, but saves a few and therefore He's a loving, caring God that fills the world with love and happiness. I love being a believer because I can cherry-pick things that prove God's power and ignore everything that contradicts my beliefs while telling everyone else that they're wrong if they don't believe, it makes feeling good so easy!

    April 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. You serious?

    FCB: You really, REALLY just over simplyfied that. Try readinga few books on the subject before you toss that out there. There are a LOT more factors involved than the way youjust posted it, and I don't have the time to give you a three hour lecture on astrophysics.

    Man... is that how they cram it into your christians? That the Big Bang theory is such simplistic. No wonder you laugh at it. Read up. Teach yourselves something.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. anonymous

    Many things can't be explained people, that's why we have something called faith. As for the girl, it is terrible that she got stung, but there is a reason behind everything that happens. Could be to show that even the most strongest of things don't always win, but again I do not know. God does exist and it's something we will have to accept at the end. The girl survived and that is what matters, be grateful.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    Whew, with all the religious zealots here, if there is god and I go to hell for not believing in him, that sounds like a much better alternative than spending eternity in heaven surrounded by these people!

    April 27, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. You serious?

    Arike: ... is that seriously your argument? Seriously?

    Can I see electricty? Yes, I can. I can measure it, quantify it, and even have methods to create it. Magnets are wonderful. You know what power I believe in? The powers of physics. Weak Nuclear Force, Strong Nuclear Force, Electromagnetism, and gravity. These things we can measure, quantify, and study. I also believe in the tenacity of humanity and the marvelous wonders we can achieve through using our intellect.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Louis

    And, what about the poor jelly-fish in all this hoopla......is he/she in jelly-fish heaven or did it too survive? How about some balanced perspective folks?? Poor little jelly-fish.....

    April 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mandie

    God was with this little girl on this day, and we all should be grateful. Even if this wasnt an "act of God" the girl is alive! And that in itself is a miracle. Rachel, we wish you a fast and speedy recovery! I myself believe that some people should keep their opinions about God to themselves, and that everybody has different opinions. Goodbye! <3

    April 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dottie

    Phil, There will come a day you will wish you had never heard of the word, "superstition", when God says, "depart from me I never knew you". I hope if you have children, somebody will lead them to the Lord. I'll be praying for you.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Carly

    This is an amazing story... 🙂

    April 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mr. Shut Up

    hmm, Aristotle’s scientific assumptions were held true for over 2,000 years. Just because a certain aspect of science is widely accepted, doesn't mean it is correct. Modern scientist, from my understandings, should embrace religious, marginal, and anecdotal evidence in order to create new hypothesis and challenge beliefs. People, philosophies and religions cannot be proved nor disproved with science. Science supports or refutes hypotheses via laws, theories, and models. To say that science disproves religion based on certain evidence is ignorant and generalized, because one key assumption of the scientific process is fallibility.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Frank D. Woodruff

    While in the Navy during the Korean War we were off the island of Enewetak. We were still in the water and were allowed to go swimming. I dove in and while in the water noticed what I thought was sea weed floating in the water. as I swam thru the tenecles I started being stung. These looked like a long stem with beads along the way maybe a foot apart. The beads are the ones that stung. It stung real bad. I swam back to the ship and yelled out to every one that there was some thing in the water that was stinging. I was jested at. I went to sick Bay and by that time I was getting real stiff. I became partialy paralized. Nobody knew what to do about it. It just so happened that there was an old Chief in sick Bay and he told the doctors that I must have been stung by a Portuguese Man of War. They had no way to treat it and my body had to fight the poison. After a couple of hours the partial paralization finally stoped. Of coarse the old Chief had a few things to say about it. He said that when he was in the islands they used to rub sand over the stings. I told him where to stick his sand. Several sailors came in after me. Of coarse they all said they thought that I was kidding.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    Religion is great because it deals with all those sticky, tough problems that I don't understand so I don't have to think about them! I just have to not think and everything will be okay! Yay God, take care of me and make me feel good!

    April 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. You serious?

    Dottie: If hell is the absence of God's Love... then what is there to be afraid of? God's love was really showing with the Crusades. Or, maybe was it the corruption of the catholic church... an, no... maybe the murder of all the firstborn in egypt... the innocents who never had a chance to choose a religion, or any belief. That's some love I think we can all go without.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Eric

    I heard that if one is doused with household vinegar after being stung , the stings neutralize

    April 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
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