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

    Chris – I read it. Talk marco-evo to me, not simple evo. I am well versed in science.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. believer

    so swordfish.. do you believe in God or are you an atheist?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Haider

    To all the non believers.

    If you think that God does not exist... and that their is not thing like creating life or death by God then I would like to ask you to hold your pee or poop and see if you can control it? If it comes out then obviously you have no control on your body...

    Their is one that controls the whole world GOD that is.

    Someone who cannot control their pee or poop think that they have control over everythinkg..
    God saved Rachel and God saves us everyday.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Micheal

    yall are all wrong!

    April 27, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Micheal Scott

    i have been stung by a jellyfish before and lived, whats the big deal? even Nemo was stung by several jellies and lived

    April 27, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Swordfish

    As a creationist, I too believe in micro-evo. As in all my posts, my issue is with MARCO-EVOLUTION!

    April 27, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Swordfish

    Believer – I believe in God and that good science testifies to his existence.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Haider

    Do we need science to acknowledge God's existence?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Amanda

    Pat: I am an atheist. I do not know all things. However, I do not believe in god(s), satan, hell, heaven or souls. Why do believers assume that when something is unexplainable it must be god? You sound like a guy I work with...same name, same attitude.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    Jellyfish are grossly overrated.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rob

    Seriously, I just love how one guy expresses his belief as his method for being glad the girl is doing ok and all of a sudden the entire comment section completely forgot what the article was about. Just leave the guy to believe in God and you can believe whatever you want. As for this story, I'm just glad the girl's outcome was not fatal.

    Seriously, grow up people.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |

    WOW What allot of GOD kickers.
    People that do not believe in GOD, think that death is the actual end???
    Do you really believe that we are all here on this earth as some far fetched chance?? Surely you are much more intelligent that that?!
    You want miracles? Just our existence is a miracle.
    It is actually way easier to prove the existence of our GOD than to disprove.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris Bennett

    Ok Swordfish, I'll bite ONCE. I'm not going to go back and forth and write a thesis here with you.

    You ask about one species turning into another at the "macro" level. I assume you do this because "micro" evolution can be demonstrated in a test tube right before your eyes and you don't want to argue that, even though it is the SAME THING. Fine.

    So, the topic of speciation. Simple enough. Answer: One species does NOT just suddenly turn into another species. That would be pretty damn unlikely, bordering on ridiculous. What DOES happen is that a group of a particular species gets separated from the main group, perhaps by mountains or water or some other geographical feature. While more or less separated, the two groups of once "identical" organisms continue to evolve over time. As they do so, they become more and more different, and if they eventually become so different that breeding between the two groups is no longer possible, then they are considered a separate species. Voila, speciation has occurred.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. marilyn rickards

    Lived in Tannum Sands/Boyne Island in the 80s with 3 young children. Watched a 5 year old die from a box jelly!!!! We always carried vinegar to the beach and kids wore old panty hose as did the junior life guards called Nippers I think.Horrendous experience for the young girl and hope she will continue to do well.
    Do not understand the religious arguments.No one "Knows" anything!!!! Some believe, two different things.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. believer

    GOD spared that child's life so she could be a testimony to his goodness and his mercy.
    Everyone who doesn't believe in GOD, well, that's you and your soul.
    Glad the little girl is doing okay. GOD is good!!!!!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
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