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. Whaaa?

    The girl lived.....period! Luck faith whatever the reason. Many as we speakm babies and chidlren and women and men are dying as I type this. Please if you have faith great, but why do you have to bring it up here. It's 50/50 period. Four leaf clover, god, some gym sock that you think helps you win the game. 50/50. If you need to tell us that god is the reason for her living then what have you done for your self that is productive on your own without your god's help.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. nis

    May god bless the girl!

    April 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Doug

    I have seen the scars of a box jelly survivor it looks like they have been branded. The girl must have had a rare tolerance to the toxin (it attacks the nervous system, and casuses hemorage at the same time) which is the reason it kills so quickly. The box jelly is also the only jelly that swims rather than being carried by currents. The have also been known to swim into fresh water which appears to be the case. The odds of her survival were tens of millions to one. It is certain this needs to be studied. These creatures have caused many deaths over the years.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Please Learn to Spell Properly

    Inconsistent: High Five for passive intelligence 😀

    April 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Reality

    Why does it have to be one god?
    Some religions are based on multiple gods
    are people of those religions and faith going to burn?
    Jews don't believe in jesus as an almighty savior but they believe in a god
    Is allah the man to pray to?
    those suicide bombers, they believe more than you do that their religion is the true path, so did they burn in hell or did they in fact get the 40 virgins?

    again its all unexplained, until science uncovers facts... you can believe w/e you want.. it won't matter after science unveils the truth..

    April 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Patrick

    SMH –
    "To all of you who denounce God: who will you call on when that great & terrible day comes (and it WILL). May this very merciful & long-suffering God have mercy on ALL of you."

    Oh yes. your capitlisation of the word "WILL" has convinced me of the veracity of your argument. After all, capitalising the word means it MUST be TRUE!!! So does shouting.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. We All Fail

    #464 it is "to you, BOB #437" We all fail, don't we?

    April 27, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    Yikes Anti Religion..............sounds like you could use a SPA, or some chocolate or maybe just some peace. Take a deep breath. It will be over soon.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. You serious?

    Nick: Why would anyone fear death? Well, personally, I think death would ultimately suck. No consciousness, just an end. Then again, it's just what happens. Things end. They cease to be. Which is why many people enjoy life while they have it. Who wouldn't have a bit of negative feeling towards the end of their existence. I like this existence. I've known it all my life. 😛

    And, in general, someone mentioned theBig Bang again. Do yourselves a favor.. READ about the science before you start spouting off about it. You don't understand the physics behind it, so don't try to debate it as a point. Read something, first.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Colin

    Andrea. First, I agree that I don't know where the first matter came from Nor do you. Nobody does, but "I don't know" does not equal god, it equals "I don't know". Second, I am far from miserable as an atheist. If you think it through, as an atheist, it is impossible to fear death, becaause the capacity to fear or feel pain itself dies. One might as well fear a vacuum. I am actually extremely proud to be an atheist. It is a sure sign of intelligence and wordliness. Thirdly, you misunderstood my comment. I menat that belief if god is like a disease and science and knowledge is the cure.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RC

    Clearly, the non-believers enjoy beatingup the believers. Clearly, the believers are nicer about just letting people be butts about believers. Frankly, I'm just glad the little girl is ok. Too bad the rest of you weren't stung by the same jellyfish.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. K

    Let's all show each other a little respect here folks. As a "non-believer" I am embarrassed to be lumped in with some of you. Who cares if someone thinks that God made the choice to let this girl live...why does that make you so angry? And "believers", just let it go. You are not going to change anyone's mind.

    Let's get this thread back to the story, that a little girl was involved a terrible situation and lived. That is amazing, no matter what the reason.

    Can't we all just get behind one belief...that everyone should stop using all CAPS?

    April 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Patrick

    @RC "Too bad the rest of you weren't stung by the same jellyfish."

    Spoken like a true believer. Praise the Lord!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Samson Dah

    Id like to add my 2 cents about God. Scientists cannot create a living cell nor even come close to the complexity of the structure of a single cell let alone create a jelly fish. It seems impossible for such a creature to come about through chance (evolution). Can Intel micoprocessors be formed by chance? Therefore it makes sense that this person (God), with such intelligence to create these complex living organisms, would also let us know about WHAT he created and WHY he created us. So this is why i believe God has personally protected the message of the Bible.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Missa.

    Absolutely amazing. It's mindboggling, actually.
    I wonder if they're going to propose to do studies or tests on her. ;0
    After her recovery & all.

    & gosh.
    Christians, stop forcing scriptures on the Atheists,
    & Atheists–play nice. You always have to be bullies.

    That is all.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
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