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. Swordfish

    Come on Freethought – dinosaurs DO NOT PROVE Macro-evo. Very weak man, you must do better.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Freethought

    I like the previous suggestion of disproving the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I'd tell you that He has actually talked to me, but He really rathers I didn't.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Richard Fieldner

    I think that the ghost of Steve Irwin saved her from a sure death. He is still poed over the whole stingray incident.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sherry

    She is Alive....for that we are thankful!
    No matter what you believe in. Divine intervention or human resilience.
    personally, I believe in both!

    April 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JT

    For those of you who are wondering how this turned into a religious debate, there was an early poster in comment 5 who proclaimed this as proof that a god saved this girl. He then proclaimed it as proof of this god and challenged all atheists to prove that it wasn't.

    Curiously, this post has since been removed. So, this would not have ever popped up if this crazy Christian had not done this.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. little red hen

    To all Believers in the blogs:

    Save your breath. The agnostics and atheists spend more time and effort trying to DISPROVE the existence of God than the rest of us do worshipping and having faith in Him.
    The fact is that God and science DO co-exist. God can be worshipped in the laboratory as well as in church.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Freethought

    Swordfish, I never said...

    Nevermind. You are now on my official "ignore" list. Watching bread crust mold is more interesting than responding to you.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Swordfish

    Ok Freethought – Take me through your logic. So how does the fossil record prove Man evolved from monkeys?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chris Bennett


    I could make up a religion that says that if you don't walk backwards and hope every third step you will be doomed to eternal torment. It has a 50/50 chance of being true, right? Oh wait, it doesn't? 1 in 100? 1 in 1,000,000? 1 in 1,000,000,000? How about 1 in infinity? Well guess what, an infinite number of stupid ideas like this can be imagined, so your one idea of following the God of Abraham is just one of an infinite number of ideas that if you don't follow the teachings of will damn you to eternal hell.

    So you really have only two choices: either you live your life fearing whether or not you've correctly picked the one true religion of the infinite possibilities on pain of eternal damnation.... or you just decide the whole concept of believing in the one true religion is a silly waste of time.

    I'll go with it being a silly waste of time. Pascal and his wager can bite me.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ty

    Nurse Lisa – I hope this doesn't come out wrong, but is the Bible "real", or just a story book on how we can better our lives and our world, and to live in peace and harmony?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Swordfish

    Attacking the faith of God-fearing people is more exciting, uh? Well, is there any Macro-evo believing person who can shed some light on the subject?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. believer

    little red hen thank you for saying that i said it before but no one really payed attention.. so ill repeat again.. "TO BOTH SIDES... EVOLUTION AND GOD CO-EXIST" you can believe in both cause God created evolution

    April 27, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Micheal

    That jellyfish is weak! anyone can live after being stung by one! now a stingray is a differnt story

    April 27, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Chris Bennett

    Swordfish, read The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins if you actually want to understand how evolution works. It's a fairly quick and entertaining read, and you don't need to be a scientist to understand it. Not only does it explain how evolution is technically possible, but it does so in a way that gives you a clear understanding of how evolution *inevitably* leads simple self-replicating cells to evolve into ever increasingly more complex life.

    I doubt you actually care, but if you do, there you go.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Swordfish

    Believer – I have to disagree with you. One species turning into another species is problematic to say the least. Macro-evo is contrary to creation.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
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