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. Grow Up

    "Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that jesus christ is bullshit..."

    April 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Believer

    First off I do believe it was no one but God spared that baby's life....but the devil can use anything and anyone against her and anybody else to TRY and take her life ...he will not put no more on use than we can bear. & it should be a wake-up call for those parents of hers that he spared their little girls life, but I guess the majority of people wouldn't look at it from this point of view because it didn't happen to them or their kids.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Guest

    It is He(God) Who gives life, and causes death, and to Him(God) you (all) shall return. Quran(10:56)

    Verily, God! Unto Him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, He gives life and He causes death. And besides God you have neither any Wali (protector or guardian) nor any helper. Quran(9:116)

    And certainly We(God)! We(GOD) it is Who give life, and cause death, and We are the Inheritors.

    And it is He(GOD) Who gives life and causes death, and His(God's) is the alternation of night and day. Will you not then understand? Quran(23:80)

    April 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. baker23

    god must have been watching you. he's not done with you yet he wants you to learn more about him

    April 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Another guest

    You all should be ashamed of yourselves for using this spot to bicker and argue about your personal beliefs and doubts. This was an amazing story about survival. Period. Nobody cares about what you think or how you feel.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Anthony

    LOL @ D. Solomon

    You're not too bright are you?

    April 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe Hall

    just because you can explain why and how something happens does not mean that God didn't do it. this girl is truly blessed. besides, the whole stuff went bang and now we have the universe theory is kinda stupid. If you want to get scientific, think of God as the manifestation of all forms of energy and life. and in the beginning, this manifestation(God) created matter and sentient life. scientists have converted matter into energy(result of nuclear bombs) so is it really farfetched to presume that the opposite is true?

    April 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Abe

    Very fortunate survivor – hopefully her sacrifice of pain and scarring helps prevent the loss of future lives to these accidents.

    As to whether God intervened – I can accept there are those with faith in such wonderful things while I disagree whether he/she was involved here... But I cannot accept the philosophy that the other children of God died because of the implied "purpose of God" determined they weren't worthy to live on.

    How horrible for the parents and children of these less fortunate victims... THINK before you claim the Almighty has "blessed" someone when there could be someone standing beside you who was not "blessed".

    If your next reply is that we do not know God's will – then DON'T pretend to KNOW!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Reasonable

    Try using critical thinking and actually looking at the evidence before selling miracles as explanations. I'm not buying what you're selling, and no one who uses reason or logic should either.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. M.Hunt


    the egg came first, birds are descendants of reptiles that lay eggs and through thousands of years of natural selection and evolution they branched off and formed their own species which we call the chicken. well that wasnt too hard

    April 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jacobs Latter

    Quran the work of an evel man.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jacobs Latter

    Quran the work of an evil man.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    This little girl has baffled scientists. The Sea Wasp (Box Jellyfish) is arguably the most venomous creature in the world. Firstly, God does exists, regardless if you acknowledge Him or not. The Sea Wasp is part of His creation. He watches over us, but we are subject to our own free will.

    But in this case, it was not this little girl's time to die. Perhaps to glorify God to all those Doctors and scientists that saw and treated her, or to the readers of this article? Make no mistake, God looks after His little children, and has a bigger plan than you realize.

    I can say this: The majority of the people that comment on cnn articles are atheists, and angry ones at that. The heated angry remarks towards Christians are disturbing. But I'm glad at least that there is discussion. It would be worse for the unsaved to be at peace as they travel towards a grim conclusion.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tsned

    Maybe it has to do with the said jellyfish who stung the girl. Since it is so deadly and she's so small it's maybe because the said jellyfish itself is deficient in producing venom.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nuno

    I see no reason why this creature shouldn't be hunted down to extiction
    Many other harmless animals have disapeared by the hands of humans, but this should be a very good candidate
    I don't think this poisonous killer has any role in any ecosystem

    April 27, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
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