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. Reasonable

    Intellectual honesty requires me to say these two things, (1) Those that claim God saved this girls life are lying; they have no evidence of this claim, and (2) Those that claim God did not are phrasing their argument wrong.
    All claims should be assumed to be FALSE until enough evidence is presented to show these claims are true. There is absolutely zero evidence God was involved, hence no intellectually honest person will conclude that a God or God(s) were involved. Stop lying to yourselves and everyone else please. This type of dishonesty is disgusting and poisonous.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. joseph

    Sounds like the beginning of a new comic book series, You go girl!

    April 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Freethought

    "I am speaking on behalf of the One True Lord of this world, the Flying Spaghetti Monster."

    Okay, so there is a god. My mistake.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gordon

    People, think about something before you comment. If there was a god, and that god saved this girl, then that same god kills millions of other kids every year. You can't have a god who saved one person while at the same time killing millions of others. So, let's leave your 'god' out of the comments. If believing in a god is your superstition, fine, but don't try to foist your beliefs and superstitions on others.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bob

    I see nothing wrong with one's belief in God.
    I see nothing wrong with one's non-belief in God.
    I see nothing in this girl's mishap that has anything to do with either belief.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Guest

    >>Seriously...if God is so powerful and great, tell me: who created God?

    If you think someone has to create GOD, then who would create HIM and the world you're living in. It is the ONLY God created you & your parents which resulted in your existence.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. baad speeler

    i trully believe that god has a perpose for that little girl

    Posted by: brian


    Maybe to become a teacher and teach you to spell!

    April 27, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hail Monkey

    To those god loving non-scientific superstitious stone aged people, you RIGHT NOW are using a device to communicate (your computer) which was the product of science. It is science that moves the world forward, NOT RELIGION/GOD!

    Ok let's see which one will move the world forward.. 2 scenarios for you god loving people:

    A) Praying every night that this girl is safe and that she was intervened by God


    B) Finding a scientific explanation as to why she didn't die and possibly an anti-venom from research

    April 27, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. teddygraham

    Why can't you all just be happy that this poor little girl who had every chance of dying, didn't? The comments about God made this jellyfish attack her and such...what does it matter? The fact is that it happened and there is nothing anyone can do about it now and we should just be glad that this little girl survived.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Freethought

    "Jesus is coming. Look busy!"

    Yes, he brought his brother, Julio, with him. They just moved here from Arizona.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Junebugj

    Robert, "cool jellyfish"....I love it.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Judith

    God saved the little girl, take or leave it. I pity you atheist because on judgement day the God you dont belive in wil be the one to judge you.believe in jesus christ and you shall be saved.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bewildered

    @Chris #60 – wow, didn't know you had to be Christian to believe in God? Or a higher power? The Great One? Allah? YWHH? Whatever you want to call your "God". That comment, indeed, is very closed minded of the hundreds of other religions in this world and not only Christians believe in "God".

    As for Rachel, what an amazing story of survival and she just may hold the answers to saving future sting victims in the future. Only science will be able to help those future victims (statistically), not luck, or prayers I'm sorry to say.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. believer

    Hurray for this girl.... Happy to hear she survived this unfortuante incident. As for all the comments, I learned early on never to argue religion or politics. Everyone has their own beliefs and I believe in God but cannot force anyone else to believe.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rupert

    Maybe this is similar to a "dry bite" that venomous snakes sometimes use. Most stings involve the jellyfish brushing up against an arm or leg. In that case the jellyfish has no idea how big the animal is, but could presumably be a fish and therefore eating size. So it stings away. However coming in total contact with this girl, perhaps it knew that the size of the animal was too large to eat, and the venom would be wasted killing it. I have no idea if a jellyfish could even determine this, or if they just attempt to sting everything they contact.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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