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. Bobster


    It is your opinion that evolution is fact, along with many others. This doesn't make it so. It has now been proven that DNA can be manipulated and even faked (google it). My point is, we have only begun to learn about DNA, so to use it as proof may be looked at as infantile in the decades and centuries to come.

    The fact that humans "share" DNA with other animals doesn't prove evolution. What it forwards (see disclaimer above) is a "theory" that the same building blocks are used in the creation of our bodies. I readily accept that we 'adapt', but to say we go from species to species is completely unproven. If this were true, especially millions of years into 'evolution', we should have many versions of humanoids living today in various stages of 'evolution'. We don't understand squat. We can present 'facts' without claiming our interpretations to be absolute.

    April 27, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bobster

    Ignornance is Bliss – most "science-only" minded people really hate it when the scientific method actually works against them. The reality is (in my opinion), the scientific method works great. It is we who take the results and try to twist them into something they are not.

    There are plenty of ignorant people who believe in God. Disbelief does not mean one is not ignorant.

    God is the greatest scientist of all.

    What kills me is the absolute rejection that he exists, while struggling to be just like Him all the while (searching for knowledge to be able to do what He does). I think many in the scientific community are just jealous that He got there first!

    April 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jasmine

    to all the "god haters" on this debate:

    im not asking you to become a christian, just have a conversation with one. and not the ones that scream "YOU'RE GOING TO HELL!!" on the side of the road. they are confused... if you are going to try to bash God, then get the facts straight. do not be so ignorant. if you are opposed to having a conversation, read a little of the Bible.

    im praying for you all... 🙂

    April 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kiawe

    re Brian, maybe God has another porpoise for her.

    April 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dan

    Maybe the jellyfish was the devil, come to consume souls for armagheddon. God defended the child for her immaculate faith in times of despair. everyone with me num *Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm* *hummmmmmmmmm* god is an awesome god, he reings over heaven and earth

    April 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. thomas

    Study this girl. She probably has the key to a better treatment for jelly stings in her blood.
    I wonder if she has been stung before perhaps by a different kind of jelly which has caused to body to create anti-bodies to help fight the poison.

    April 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Adam

    as a scientist, I can tell you that 40,000 dollars to study anything is a drop in the bucket. This wont even pay for one post-doc salary, just a handful of analyses, or maybe half a year salary of one professor. Basically, this wont amount to a hill of beans unless they put some real money into it.

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

    Adam – Thomas has an interesting idea. Given your experience, how much would be needed to do a real study like that?

    April 27, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ames, Sydney, Australia

    wow...here's a little girl recovering from a horrific encounter and instead of wishing her and her family well, people are arguing about religion!

    amazing! if there really was a GOD/creator/evoluation. etc.etc, he/she would be weeping from all the hatred amongst the humans, especially when it comes to arguing his/her/it teachings.

    so i'll just put my two cents into the arguement.
    I believe at the end of the day, its WHO we are as a person that matters,
    lets live life now – be kind, respectful and loving to one another.
    When we die, let whatever comes next, come next.
    None of us really knows for SURE what would happen...

    Rachel Shardlow, I hope you're recover from this ordeal, be strong and you've got many people that are thinking about you and your family.

    April 27, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. A Jew

    G-D controls everything. there is nothing G-D doesn't notice. And yes, to all of you who asked, G-D also sent the jellyfish to sting her and then saved her life. G-D sends all things that seem bad, and we cannot always understand the purpose. But as for those who died, they were put on this earth for a specific amount of time to finish a specific task, and once that was done, they were removed. This world is not the main point. The point of this world is only to prepare for the next world, and to bring glory to G-D's name. This world only exists because G-D constantly wills it to. if for a second G-D stopped willing it to, it would disappear as if it had never been. that goes for every blade of grass, every strand of hair, and every particle of dust. Questioning why G-D does something is appropriate if you are indeed looking for an answer, however, it seems to me that most of you are not. Even so, it would seem to me you have nothing to loose and everything to gain by considering the possibility that G-D does indeed exist. quit being so close minded.

    April 27, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Laquia

    Everyone uses something different to explain the unexplainable. Science has shown that people that have been stung by that magnitude have usually died but in this case it didn't happen. Dr. Solomon chooses to believe in GOD while others believe in science. How fortune or MIRACULOUS for this girl that she had strong antibodies that repelled the venom and was able to survive the stings and wasn't just a NORMAL person like the rest of us. HOW BLESSED she really is given the circumstances. You say Science...I saw GOD and SO WHAT if Dr. Solomon does too.

    April 27, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. lewis

    i hope she gets better

    April 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mr August Nidor

    I understand that the sting is terribly painful, so that is one lucky girl. I hope she is able to go back in the sea one day.

    As for god, what of the people that die when they encounter animals? I presume we all remember Steve Irwin. He was certainly a person that made the earth better.

    I honestly think that if theists put a little thought into it they would quickly see that it is all a sham.

    April 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nash McNasty

    I take the time to read a story about a little girl that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I then noticed that there was a place where people could write there comments and presumably send best wishes and such to this little girl. Then one individual made a comment thanking a god he believes to be responsable for this young girls life. Well by the respones to that statment you'd think he must have attacted this girl himself. Are people so threatened by peoples belief in god that they feel the need to hyjack this venue to use it to continue the hole 'he is too, he is not' debate. Are people so intolerant of others belief in a higher power that they cant allow this a person to thank God (Real or imagined) without feeling the need to challenge, mock and in some statments even ridicule. Let me see if I can help (probably not) but here goes, A little girl has been horrifically stung by one of the worlds most deadly jellyfish (jellyfishes?)<–(whatever). She is still alive thanks to – Emergency personnel, Doctors, Luck, Fate and maybe just maybe "God". I gotta be honest I don't care who gets the credit I'm just thankful a little girl gets another chance to be a little girl. To all of you who turned this into a theological debate. what the hell is wrong with you? And to the little girl – I wish you the best and I hope you recover quikly.
    P.S. Hey Val, hows my spelling?

    April 27, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hawaiikaos


    It is not my opinion that evolution Is fact, it actually IS fact, and the vast, VAST majority of hard scientists know it to be fact.

    DNA is proof of evolution, this is FACT. It takes very little for DNA to mutate, in fact it happens all the time in. When mutations build up in a cell over time, this can cause cancer. When a mutation happens in a gamete cell, it can be carried to offspring. This is why children of older parents have a higher risk of deformities and genetic abnormalities. However, not all mutations are bad. Some are good, and then become a permanent part of that branch of the species. This drives evolution.

    In addition to genetic variation, chromosomal mutation plays a part in evolution. During cell replication in an embryo, it's possible for chromosomes to be over copied, or deleted. This quickly changes the genetic makeup of the resulting organism. Gorillas have 48 chromosomes, and humans have 46, but otherwise we are pretty much identical (and that alone should be proof enough of evolution).

    Plants are genetically more complex than us, and plant reproduction can get very complex. Rye for instance is a hybrid of wheat and another grass (a completely different species). Wheat itself is a hybrid of three different parent grasses originating from the middle east. So here, a new species evolved because of one cross-pollination event thousands of years ago.

    We can even use DNA as a sort of clock to see when various species diverged from one another, by comparing how much change there is between the DNA of different species.

    Because of individual variation, DNA is not a perfect record of exactly what evolved when, but it offers tremendous insight.

    Yes, DNA can be manipulated (I even discussed it in my post), but that does not disprove evolution. In fact, it further supports it, because it shows that it is a system that easily changes; it is not static. Evolution just means change.

    Yes, the fact that we share genes with other organisms does support evolution. You obviously misunderstand exactly what gene is if you say that it doesn't. A gene is like a long piece of computer code (or any meaningful text). If it is the same in organism A as it is in organism B, just as it is the same in two organisms of the same species, you can surmise that organism A is somehow related to organism B. Two organisms from the same species will share almost all their genes. If organism A shares almost all their genes with organism B, then you can say that these two organisms are closely related. If however organism A shares only a few genes with organism B, then you can say that these two organisms are not closely related.

    What is interesting is that all species on earth share genes with other species. If you look just at multicellular life, most of our DNA is concerned with how to create cells, which, if you look at under a microscope, will be undifferentiated by species. You can't tell a dog cell apart from a human cell, if they are from the same comparable organ. Yes you could say that a creator entity just didn't want to reinvent the wheel and so copied all these genes into all these different species, but the simpler explanation is that this is true because of evolution, which favors genes that does something useful, and doesn't favor bad mutations.

    You posit that we should have millions of variations of humanoids on earth, but this just means you are totally ignorant of how evolution works in populations. Species are adapted to their environment. If the environment changes, they most evolve, move, or die. Most of the time they die (the population, not the individual, which we are not concerned with). When a species separates into two groups and the groups move physically apart, they can evolve separately, and eventually there are two species (like us and bonobo chimpanzees).

    There are not millions of interstitial human forms on earth right now because it only takes a few changes to make a new species.There would be only a handful of interstitial forms between us and our bonobo/human ancestor, and they, funnily enough, do show up in the fossil record (the missing link argument is totally moot at this point). Also, because speciation needs a population of organisms, if the mutations that do occur are not absorbed into the population, it is not possible for a new species to emerge.

    If you think I'm just blowing air in your direction, you are mistaken. Crack any biology textbook written in the last thirty years, and you'll see the same stuff.

    April 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
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