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. sssimon

    Yup, Jesus/God saved her. The other hundreds of thousands of people who didn't die in their sleep of old age that day – not so much.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Marijuana

    This little girl obviously hasnt been watching enough spongebob. Hes the king of jelly fishing

    April 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    You know, maybe Buddha saved the girl, not Jesus. Give the Buddha the credit he deserves! Or maybe it was Thor...

    April 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. angie


    April 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Arike

    And I didn't want to bring religion into this by talking about Jesus. Because, religion was created by man to control the masses.
    I haven't always been religious. I went to Catholic schools and church as a child. The nuns would beat us with these stacked rulers. My thoughts back then was that if these were representatives of God then I was truly going to hell so I might as well be big and bad as I wanted to be.
    When a person experiences things that defy what science or even society says, then they know the proof that others continuously challenge. Unless you know, then you don't know. I feel bad for those who don't know. Some will get there, some won't. Some of you who are fighting mad about the "GOD" thing will believe in GOD soon. Then you'll know. And then you'll understand and be patient with the people who will be responding like you are now. That's just how it goes.
    I love you, GOD loves you and there's nothing you can do about it.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. AshannaK

    It wasn't her time.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Howard

    Arguing religion is just like debating politics. People have different views, and are not going change them. What is the purpose of putting people down for how they think about life and reasons for why things happen? It is pretty sad that people get offended so easily. That girl is really really lucky. Leave it at that and don't get hurt if someone thanks God for her survival

    April 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. You serious?

    Angie: Ridiculous*. Oh, and Caps Lock does not automatically make you right.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dorthy

    She is the savior of us all. Jesus 2.0.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. southern bell

    How in the world did this story get on religion?! Just be gald the little girl is ok and believe whatever you want!

    April 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andrea

    God does love all people, take a gander at the new testement, which was actually written when it occured. The Bible is made up of 66 different books that are supposed to be read in different ways. They are different forms of writing. God did not write the Bible, the Bible however is God inspired. Im not going to say that every little detail (especially in the old testement) is completely accurate but then again I dont believe that alot of it was meant to be taken literally. Either way, that doesnt even matter. If you look around at everything in existence it is impossible to deny the existence of a creator. The odds of everything in creation turning out as perfectly as it did is like a man standing on the moon and throwing a dart onto earth and hitting a specific bulls eye.

    No one can understand God and no one knows why this girl was stung or why she survived or anything else about it at all. To say that you completely understand is a lie, because we are all just human beings. However, I do thank God for every good and perfect thing that happens, including this girls survival. We live in a bad world where lots of bad things happen, to see the good things every now and then truly a light in a world of darkness, and a glimpse of heaven.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sssimon

    I learned from "Friends" that the thing to do when stung by a jellyfish is to pee on it.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Noot

    He turned me into a NEWT! But I got bettah!

    April 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. The devil did it

    God didn't send the jellyfish after Rachel. The devil did!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. You serious?

    Bob: Buddha wasn't a God and did not proclaim Godhead. I doubt he'd get involved. Thor.. well, he may have had a bet or something with the Norns.

    April 27, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
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