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. Joe Hall

    @ Chris and all my fellow Christians.
    I agree that most people who comment tend to be atheist, and very angry ones at that, it is our duty to bring forth evidence of God to these unbelievers, and show them what he does on a daily basis. do not let up!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dave

    Atheists: I looked it up, there is no law that requires you to be obnoxious. "Self-righteous" used to be a quality associated with the religious. Now it is amost exclusively a quality of the atheist poster.

    I see many comments connecting this girl's survival with God. If you wish to post saying that the girls survival does not prove the existence of God to you (perhaps because many children died that day all over the world), you can make that post.

    But why do you feel it necessary to insult believers. You think believers are stupid, but many of the smartest people alive today and throughout history believed in God. Einstein and Darwin believed in God. Stalin and Mao did not.

    In a story, Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest. In part he replied, treat others as you would like to be treated. Regardless of whether Jesus was God, a man, or make beleive, treating others as you wish to be treated sounds like good advice. I would recommend it to you atheist posters.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. God

    Hello all you atheists. This is God. I'm sending one million box jellyfish to sting all of you. But don't worry ... I have a nice warm place for all of you to recuperate for many millennia to come!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Patrick

    Hey D Solomon.....Do you still run into your cave and cower behind a rock whenever you see lightning? Friggin KOOK!!!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    Just wondering why the mention of God has to get so many people so excited about making the points against the intervetion of God. If God exists, I tend to think he or she does, then maybe he or she was looking the other way when this happened then decided to intervene. Who knows!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Midwest

    To D. Solomon- "Want your proof atheists, explain this one?"

    Where was God before this girl was stung? Why did God allow this to happen?

    Oh yeah, because not matter what the situation, God has a plan and you guys have an explanation as to why God let's pain and suffering happen only to pluck a handful of people back from the edge of death.

    Never mind that you guys never talk about all those poor souls that ended up dying.

    God had NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS girl surviving. Some people survive things and we may not fully understand why but that doesn't mean God had anything to do with it.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe Hall

    at man posting as God,
    God won't end the world with jelly fish, there is like a 7 year war after the rapture to deal with that, funny comment BTW

    April 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JT

    To the simpleton god fanatic in comment #5, explain http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Matt

    I'm so happy to hear that she's pulling through. Keep up the tough stuff, kiddo.

    Agreed, Steve. No need for unneccessary invocations. I find it irritating when people start reciting Bible verses whenever something very unlikely happens. The word "miracle" is like the word "racist" in the sense that it gets thrown around lightly. It cheapens the case for God, which I don't particularly appreciate from a strictly intellectual sense.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. wikilou

    Well so much for scientis knowing everything. They need a bit more humility before I bow down to their self proclaimed omnipotence.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Freethought

    I wish this little girl a complete healing.

    That being said, God had nothing to do with her "salvation". I see this on a daily basis anymore. "God saved/spared her". If she'd have died, the same crowd would say, God called her home." It's the ultimate feel-good ego trip from those who can't face simple facts. Fact: There is no God (just me saying this is blasphemy and is punishable by instant death from the "main man" Himself, yet here I continue to sit). Fact: Since there is no God, God therefore must have nothing to do with anything that ever happens in our universe. This girl was simply very lucky. That is, if you consider surviving an ordeal that causes most to wish for a quick death just to end the searing pain AND being physically and emotionally scarred for life a lucky thing.

    As for the chicken and the egg scenario thrown out earlier, the answer is so incredibly simple. The egg came first. The thing that laid it was very similar to the chicken it laid, but something physiological was slightly to moderately different. The resulting chicken was, therefore, considered a mutation. The mutation within the chicken played out as a strength for survival and was passed on to its offspring. This is called evolution.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bruce

    I am smitten with WRATH that this has turned into a platform for religion.
    While I GREEDily partake in my business which provides me to afford the luxuries in life.
    While I partake in my SLOTHly ways, watching tv and eating cheetos on the couch.
    I PRIDE myself in these endeavors in which I partake.
    All the while LUSTing to give my neighbors wife exactly what she wants and he wont give her.
    I will admit though I am in ENVY of those who just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are better than any of us.
    But I have to go and indulge myself in the GLUTTONY of my twinkies, ho ho's, and big macs for lunch.
    Life is good.

    I am glad this little girl is doing ok and I wish her a speedy and full recovery.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. nobody N. Particular

    @Steve, @John Teeb, and @Betsy:

    Why do you assume that just because science can explain an event that it precludes God? Your assumptions are asinine, God is in everything, including science, and its not the animal's fault either, it is a creature that is a slave to its nature. She was very lucky, and given the gravity of the situation, I most certainly would consider this divine intervention.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. saganhill

    Im so glad and happy the little girl survived, but prove to me that god intervened and it was a miracle. You cant...

    April 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe Hall

    Notice how all the atheists yell like they're mad at God. if you had any intelligence or character, you would create a strong, objective argument on your point, not yell and whinge like some self-righteous ape. (yes, that was an evolution pun)

    April 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
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