Meet the Most Venomous Animal on the Planet!

by BobinOz on September 10, 2009

in Australia's Bad Things

  • It can kill within a minute and a half.
  • 63 lives claimed in Australia since 1884.
  • Its poison kills faster than a Taipan.

Meet the Box Jellyfish

The real name of the box jellyfish is Chironex Fleckeri and it is sometimes known as the sea wasp. I always hated wasps, the buzzing black and yellow flying type, but compared to the sea wasp those things are like cuddly teddies.

The box jellyfish is mainly a problem on the northern coastal areas of Australia, about 200 km above Brisbane and all the way round, past Darwin to the north-west.

It has been suggested that there are hundreds of sea wasp stings per year yet, on average, it takes less than one life annually. Why is that? Ever seen one of those adverts for some sort of book that says “Vinegar – How to Cure Just about Everything!” – Well it actually works and can saves the lives of those stung by the box jellyfish.

If contact is made with a tentacle of a box jellyfish, it will stick to the skin and begin to release lethal toxins. Pouring vinegar (for at least 30 seconds) over the tentacle prevents any further injection and allows it’s careful removal (wear gloves or wrap a cloth round your hand). Many lives have been saved in this way with vinegar.

Sometimes beaches are closed down because of the box jellyfish, particularly during the mating season which unfortunately falls between October and April. Sort of like all through the summer.

Some popular beaches have fixed up netting to keep them out. And many beaches where the jellyfish may be a problem have bottles of vinegar right there next to the warning sign about the killer.

“Great, they’ve got some vinegar. Fancy a dip?”

I don’t think so! I’ll be looking to the nearest swimming pool.

But the box jellyfish may end up being our friend. Scientists have been gathering up their venom to find out why it has such an instant and deathly effect on the heart. If they can reverse engineer that, the box jellyfish may just end up saving lives instead of taking them.

But for now, just add it to the list of dangerous sea creatures.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

alice November 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm

hey yeah im doing an assignment on the box jelly fish and i needed to know where you got your imformation on the statistics on the death?

Reply

BobinOz November 3, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Hi Alice

It’s been a while since I wrote this article, but I know I checked my sources on that figure in at least three places. 63 seems to be pretty consistent, although one source says 64. I have also seen a couple of TV programmes here in Australia which confirmed 63.

I think it’s safe to use that number. But if in doubt, you can always ask my best mate, Google. He knows everything!

Do you think it might be different?

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Dr. Lisa-ann Gershwin June 15, 2010 at 1:22 am

There’ve been a few more since the 63 stat was published. It currently stands at 71, if you count Irukandji, 69 if you don’t. That’s in Australia. Mind you, there are … eh hem… a few others elsewhere too… Many of the Asian and African countries don’t tend to keep (or share) their statistics, so there’s only small amounts of hard data for those countries. Some of the published estimates have been 4-10 per year in Japan, 40-50 or 50-90 per year in the Philippines, and X number (where X may be a very large number) in places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, China, etc, where the recognition of the problem, and the time or inspiration to properly report the information are often lacking.

I don’t think it’s fair to chalk it off to “trying to hide it” — for example, did you know that there have been 6 Irukandji stings in North Wales in the UK, reported in the well known medical journal The Lancet? Nope? Well, neither do most British and Welsh medicos. But it’s true. But it wasn’t called ‘Irukandi syndrome’, so it doesn’t ring bells for those in the know. And for those not in the know, well, let’s just say that you only know what you know. Y’know?!?!?

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BobinOz June 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Thanks for updating those figures for me. I did think my number of 63 was pretty much up to date, have there been any more deaths quite recently then? I am not surprised by the figures for those Asian countries though, as I understand it the area of ocean above Australia and all around Asia are probably the most dangerous in the world.

But I am shocked about those Irukandji stings off of North Wales. Shocked, firstly, because I had no idea Irukandji would be up that way and shocked, secondly, because I had no idea anybody swam off of North Wales! Hehehe!

But I do know of the Lancet and it is a highly respected medical journal, so if it’s in there, it’s true. So it seems that none of us are safe.

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Jeremy July 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Seems we’ve always been of the same mind, Bob. The ocean is beautiful for fishing, boating, and scenery, but I’d just as soon swim in a nice pool where I can see what’s lying on the bottom and, more importantly, actually see the bottom. So thank you for making me feel much more sane about my healthy respect for things that can predate on me.

Here in sunny Arizona, USA (113 degrees F for heaven’s sakes…), I don’t have to worry about the box jelly or irukandji yet (though if they’re showing up near North Wales, I guess nowhere’s really safe). Tripping over a small dog sized scorpion into a large prickly pear cactus providing shade to several rattlesnakes isn’t out of the realm of possibility, though.

So, yes, I’m definitely just starting the “Idea” phase of moving to Australia. Your blog posts here have been a big help because I’ve been very interested in the critter situation. Honestly, it doesn’t sound any different than living here except much better economics, scenery and weather. My time will probably be a ways off yet, I haven’t had a lot of time to prove myself in a given skill set for work, but I’m looking at either Brisbane or Perth with an eye sliding toward Melbourne on occasion.

Honestly, though, I’d go anywhere and do pretty much anything just to get in-country. Detooth salties in Darwin, wear Lederhosen in Grinderwald Village in Tasmania, whatever it takes! Hopefully I’ll get the chance to say G’day someday in person.

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BobinOz July 12, 2010 at 6:22 pm

No Jeremy, you are not alone. In almost 3 years here I have still to go into the sea deeper than my waist. That’s as far as I’ve gone so far, deep enough to get nailed by a jelly but too shallow for a shark.

I have been to Arizona, my brother lives there, and I agree, we don’t have anything here that is anything worse than anything you’ve got there. In fact, isn’t the rattlesnake quite aggressive? Our snakes tend to leave us alone.

I’d be more worried about wearing that Lederhosen in Grinderwald Village in Tasmania than any of the critters we have around here! Keep the idea alive and I hope you get out here sometime and if that happens to be Brisbane, it’d be great to meet you.

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Matt November 24, 2010 at 7:59 am

Not even close to the most venomous animal in the world and it really is an embarrassment and a shame that Jamie Seymour says such nonsense.Most box jellyfish stings dont even require hospitalization for christs sake and I can post studies to show this. Their are about 20 types of venomous snakes in Asia that have more toxic venom and cause more severe symptoms than a box jellyfish sting. Utterly pathetic that Jamie seymour would claim that this is the most venomous animal in the world… Wat a fool

Reply

BobinOz November 24, 2010 at 9:52 pm

As usual Matt, (Matt has commented elsewhere on this blog) you offer nothing but insults and aggression. And no facts.

In your world, everyone is a fool except yourself. Luckily, only you live in your world.

Search Google for “most venomous animal on planet” and you will see that almost everybody disagrees with you. The box jellyfish tops most lists.

But here you are again, harping on about snakes in Asia and insulting people……..

Reply

Matt November 30, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Lol bob… Tommorrow I will post some things that will change your mind. My comments about jamie seymour stand. He is a complete joke and has little/no credibility. He seems like a very nice guy but has no credibility

Reply

BobinOz December 2, 2010 at 12:47 am

Too right I’m laughing, you are funny!

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