The Tiny Irukandji Jellyfish

by Gary Niederhoff on October 12, 2011

Jamie Seymour observes an Irukandji jellyfish, which reaches an average size of 1cm, with tentacles sometimes as long as 35cm. It was named after the Irukandji people native to the area near Cairns in northeast Australia, who often suffered from what mid-20th century Australian doctors called Irukandji syndrome. In 1964 it was confirmed that the syndrome was caused by the stings of various box jellyfish which flourish in Australian waters. Whereas most jellyfish have stingers only on their tentacles, the Irukandji is the only jellyfish to also have stingers on its bell. It also possesses the ability to fire stingers from its tentacles, rather than simply inject them. Its venom is 100 times as potent as a cobra. Their tiny stings often go unnoticed for an average of 30 minutes, when the venom begins to do its thing.

From wikipedia: “symptoms include severe headache, backache, muscle pains, chest and abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, sweating, anxiety, hypertension, tachycardia and pulmonary edema. One unusual symptom associated with Irukandji syndrome is a feeling of ‘impending doom’. Patients have been reported as being so certain that they are going to die that they beg their doctors to kill them to get it over with. Symptoms generally abate in 4 to 30 hours, but may take up to two weeks to resolve completely.” Only two human deaths have ever been attributed to Irukandji stings.

You can hear Seth’s interview with Jamie from our show “What’s Your Poison?” here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Andi August 3, 2010 at 11:30 am

Wow, that little thing packs some serious punch. I have a mixed feeling of horror and amazement. I’ll stick to the Med sea for my holidays…

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