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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  1. Bobster

    All you anti-god posters take a chill pill. Why choose to debate such a deep discussion over a single issue? That isn't scientifically or intellectually honest of you, so your rantings say more about you than some person trying to express his grattitude for what he believes is a higher being intervening to save this little girl's life. His viewpoint is harmless as he is not forcing it on anyone. You can't prove he is wrong any more than he can prove he is right. What amuses me most of 'science only' minded people is the irrational fear of saying "I don't know". Refusing to consider a possibility that cannot be ruled out is very hypocritical and close minded

    Again, chill out....relax...

    April 27, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Hawaiikaos

    @FCB post #356 you said:

    "Okay so maybe God didn't exist, maybe the universe was created through a "big bang" and then the Earth appeared and the planets popped up and rotated in perfect form and the sun arrived and heated the earth perfectly, and then the human body miraculously formed itself and then evolved over the years into the most perfect working machine present on this universe. The blood just "knows" how to pump itself and all the organs work perfectly in unison, which is a complete coincidence...and the animal kingdom balances itself out also coincidentally..

    Is that what you athiests are trying to say? When you can explain how everything in this universe works perfectly..THEN you obviously know more than the CREATOR and then your words might be a little credible"

    1) the big bang is still debated by scientists. The leading theory is that two branes collided, producing the explosion of matter and energy (our universe is like a water droplet, and a brane is like a shower curtain - this is part of M theory, which is a new branch of physics). After billions of years of expansion, whereby the universe cooled and matter condensed, systems of galaxies, stars etc formed. This was a LONG process. Sol, our sun, formed five billion years ago. It condensed from a cloud of interstellar dust, and ignited into a fusion ball when it's density reached a certain critical point, like all stars. Some of the cloud remained, and flattened out around Sol into a planetary disc because of Sol's gravity. This happens with almost every other young single system star we point our telescopes to, so it's extremely common (and well understood process). The dust is distributed randomly, so it is not even. Due to gravity, clumps of larger material begin to accrete over time, and the process speeds up the bigger the dustballs get. We can easily see this process in action when we look at the moon systems of the gas giants, which are just smaller scale version of stars and planets.

    2) the sun did not precede the formation of the planets, they happened concurrently, because they formed from the same dust cloud.

    3) the planets revolve around the sun in ellipses (ovals if you never took a lick of math) in more or less regular orbits, because space has four at least four dimensions. The gravity of large masses pulls down on that fourth dimension, so that things near are pulled in. If the object falling inn has enough speed in a perpendicular direction, it will orbit the massive object, and that's what happens with the planets moving around the Sun.

    4) there is nothing miraculous about evolution. 4.9 billion years ago, life began on Earth. We don't know exactly how, but that doesn't mean that it's not discoverable. Over the vast, electrically stimulated oceans (the weather was very violent back then, we know because we can model those early conditions in computer simulations) many molecules bumped into each other, forming bigger molecules. Carbon, a very common element played a special role. It's very "sticky" in that it easily combines with other elements, and can spontaneously form long chain molecules which are essential for life. Big molecules are not enough to form life, there needs to be some protection from the outside environment. Bubbles form easily even in pure water, but thee stick around if that water is full of complex molecules - think of a sink full of soap bubbles. These bubbles were the precursor to cells. All that need to happen was to have a bubble form around some other complex molecules, and voilà, life. However, in order to persist, this cell needs to be able to reproduce itself, no easy task, and how cells developed replication is one of the most intriguing mysteries of science. That does not mean it's not discoverable. However, if you think about the story of an infinite number of monkeys typing randomly on an infinite number of typewriters eventually producing a novel, and substitute in a near infinite number of cells and molecules in a near infinite (from the atomic level) ocean, you can see that life can easily develop reproduction without any supernatural intervention.

    5) the human body is not the "most perfect machine" LOL. How hilariously anthropic you are! Most plants are way more complex, efficient, logger lived, and generally better at what they do than we are.

    6) blood does not "know" anything. It gets to where it needs to be in the body because of a system of tubes, called veins and ateries, that have one way valves that give the flow of blood a direction. The pumping of the heart puts pressure on the blood to move forward, and it can't move back because of the valves. At the ends of the arteries, the blood seeps into the body, unloads oxygen to cells, picks up waste gasses, and moves into veins, which go in the other direction. This is a very well understood process.

    7) organs don't always work together in complete unison. We have an appendix, which is a vestigial stomach that we evolved to not use. If material gets trapped there, it can become infected and we can die. This is hardly, "working in unison". Where things doe work as well as they do it's because of evolution. If an organ mutates with a bad trait, it will kill the host and the trait will not be passed on. If it's a good trait, then the host lives to reproduce and organ becomes better, and more likely to work in unison with other organs.

    8) the Sun only happens to be the correct temperature, and Earth is the correct distance away in order for life to form. Of the billions of stars just in our galaxy, most have planets, but most won't have the right conditions for the development of life (some inevitably will, which will make the next several hundred years of scientific exploration particular interesting). We only think we aree special, because we are here to surmise this, and this is known to scientists as the anthropic principle.

    I hope that helps your understanding of the universe. I urge you to seek out more information (watch NOVA on PBS once in awhile, like I did as a kid. It's where I picked up most of this information before I was seven).

    April 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sarah

    Everyone who takes issue when someone comments about God sounds so hypocritical. Yes, it's fine to not believe but it's also fine TO believe. Why does it bother you so much? Everyone's allowed to have an opinion. Why attack someone else for their beliefs? Grow up!

    April 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ric

    There must be a way to blame this on Obama now that the religion angle has been beaten to death.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. popcorn

    The concept of "God" was made so that people can instill proper values in their lives. All "God" says is to be a good person in life, not constantly pray and pray to something that might not exist.. Just don't steal or kill, that's all that matters.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Roody C

    it is personal the power of God, you can't explain it until you experience it. the little girl is alive for a good reason because, nothing just happen.
    to God be the glory!!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. popcorn

    Just be happy that the girl survved this terrible ordeal

    April 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bobster

    Yes. blame it on Obama since he will just turn around and blame it on Bush (who will thank God this girl made it), which is what Dems really want to do right? Come on people, exercise that noodle between your ears and add a dose of patience, consideration and compassion.

    Now back to THE TOPIC – I am so glad this little girl survived and hope she makes a full recovery.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hawaiikaos

    @nurse Lisa post #556

    The term "theory of evolution" is misleading to most lay people because they think it means "hypothesis", but it really carries the same meaning as in "music theory". It means that it is a working body of knowledge, ergo facts.

    Evolution is no longer a hypothesis. There is overwhelming evidence that it is true, and we can even see it at work under laboratory conditions. The fact that you likely eat GMO foods means that we know enough about evolution that we can manipulate it's processes to our own ends (which is sort of scary). The fossil record helps us to understand that life has changed markedly over the 4.9 billion years it has been on Earth, but the best proof of evolution is written in our DNA, which is chock full of old genes we share with other organisms, and junk genes that no longer get expressed, but are expressed in ancestor species. If there were a creation event, and each organism was designed, it would stand to reason that entity would not bother to insert junk genes, although it might resort to copying and pasting genes express a particular trait - which is what humans do when we create new species 😉

    April 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. popcorn

    BE HAPPY!!

    April 27, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. popcorn

    so yea....im curious are box jellyfishes really the most poisonest creatures on the planet?

    April 27, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ituri

    When you are asking "what came first, the chicken or the egg" to prove your personal deity exists, please step back and ask yourself how RIDICULOUS the question is in the first place, okay?

    A girl survived when she had odds not to. People survive all sorts of strange things. Far more do NOT survive these circumstances. Some few surviving is no more proof of your fantasy than the many dead is proof of non-existance. Its all assumptions, and its all sad and unnecessary.

    If we had the mentality of "its a miricle!" there would be no further study as to WHY she survived. Thankfully, many people want a REAL answer.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    The Truth – We are all walking saltwater bags with eyes, built with stardust.

    Everything else is up to debate

    April 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ignornance is Bliss

    How can people still believe in fairytales like "God" in this day and age? I can understand how a thousand years ago people could believe in this garbage and kill each other over it, but with the vast improvement of science I don't understand how people can still hold in to these silly ideas. In the words of south park, would you believe in a flying spaghetti monster just because it cannot be disproved? Believing in god is for simpletons who are unable or unwilling to open their minds and seek answers based on facts. The only argument they will ever have is YOU CAN'T DISPROVE HIM! Well, I guess you're right, it's impossible to disprove something as ridiculous as christianity or islaam because they are like fairytales.. there is nothing concrete in religion, it's all based on invisible ideas that will never be able to be disproved. So keep on ignoring science and living in ignorance simpletons, ignorance is bliss!

    April 27, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Angelia Lanzetti

    So much anger...when God is mentioned.....wow

    April 27, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
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