Tag Archives: marine science

Jellyfish: Weird, Wonderful and a Dangerous sting


Image: swellnet.com

All jellyfish sting and that’s the unfortunate truth.

Every jellyfish fires out millions of little stinging cells called nematocysts, similar to a bee sting only much smaller and many more of them. The only difference is in the potency and the length of the sting barb and the reason for this variation is due to how they catch and eat their prey. Some jellies like to catch and eat small fish that are fast and agile. A jelly needs to subdue its prey fast so it doesn’t get damaged in the ordeal or escape. So some have very powerful neurotoxin venom and this is what can be dangerous to humans.

Common types of jellyfish

For years we have been aware of the dangers of the Box Jellyfish. It has the most powerful venom and is the largest of the dangerous Jellyfish. It has a reputation for causing fatalities, especially to those with predisposed heart or respiratory conditions.

The Bluebottle (or Man-o-war or Sea Wasp) is another common Jelly responsible for the greatest number of injuries to swimmers due to their numbers and being found further south than the Box Jellyfish.

In the last few years however, we have heard more about a much smaller but quite insidious fellow – the Irukandji. This guy is indeed a small species of Box Jellyfish, of which there are 16 different species. The two most common and responsible for most deadly stinging occurrences are the Carukia barnesi and Malo kingi.

These Irukandji grow anywhere from 5-25mm, each one with 4 long tentacles up to 1m in length. Their sting initially is moderately irritating with symptoms of their venom delayed anywhere between 5 to 120 minutes after. On average it takes 30 minutes for symptoms to appear and include severe lower back pain, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, profuse sweating, severe cramps and spasms, and a feeling of impending doom. Some species also cause severe hypertension (high blood pressure). Irukandji syndrome can be fatal, but generally is not. Hospitals throughout tropical and subtropical Australia have good evidence-based protocols for managing Irukandji syndrome, and most people stung make a full recovery.

Alarming research into the Irukandji

Scientists from James Cook University Townsville Queensland have made some alarming recent discoveries about the Irukandji.

Unlike all other jellyfish known to science, Irukandji have stinging cell on their medusa (dome/bell), believed to be an adaptation to sting prey from anywhere on their body due to their small size to increase their chance of catching prey. The other worrying feature is that the most well-known immediate remedy for jellyfish stings, vinegar, actually promotes the discharge of venom into Irukandji victims up to 50% more. Scientists believe this increase to be of lethal consequence and now advise avoiding use of vinegar on victims if unsure what type of jellyfish was responsible. Blue Bottles and Box Jellyfish have fairly easy to detect stinging marks, thus vinegar in those cases is still suggested.

What does this mean for us?

It is now well documented the occurrence of these jellyfish in waters as far south as Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. It is evident that with increasing water temperatures (1 to 2 degrees over the past few years) has led to a migration of Jellyfish including Irukandji into more southern waters. How far south will they go, no one can say for certain, but awareness and vigilance is required when visiting beaches and reefs all over Queensland. Being prepared and knowing what to do is important for our safety and wellbeing.

And a final note, this is not a case for hysteria. There have been some false identifications of Irukandji and bigger box jellyfish in recent months. The morbakka or Moreton Bay Jellyfish is related but nowhere near as dangerous.

Learn more

If you’re interested in learning more about the Weird & Wonderful creatures of the Sea, check out our school holiday program or invite us to your school to deliver a curriculum-based program.

Ocean Life an Interactive School Incursion


By Richard Coward

Ocean Life Education delivers fun marine education incursions, where students are given the opportunity to interact with a variety of live marine creatures.

Through positive controlled contact children learn why animals’ look and feel the way they do, how their bodies function, what their individual role is in their environment and therefore why we need to look after them.

Initial focus with children is on individual animals, the next step is to explain their role in their specific environment, from here the question is asked; “what would happen if this animal was removed/extinct?” Finally, what impacts are we as humans having on the animals and their environment?

Responding to interactive learning

Interactive learning covers all modes of learning such as visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (touch). We understand all children are different and learn in different ways, some may be visual not auditory, others kinaesthetic not visual. This means the message of protecting through understanding is far reaching and more effective.

Children respond very well to hands on interactive learning, with the real animal at their fingertips information given to them has much greater meaning than learning from a book, white board or a story.

This one-on-one experience provides a greater depth of understanding which leads to the desire to protect them.

Marine studies linked to the Australian Curriculum

Our hope is to imprint in every Australian a sense of ownership and protectiveness of our marine environment, and together we will lead the world in the changes necessary for a healthy planet.

Ocean Life Education marine incursions are accredited by Education Queensland and are linked to the Australian National Curriculum and C2C for science and biological education.

A variety of marine education programs are offered for schools, vacation care, special events and conferences.

Choose a program that suits current unit themes

Our fun and interactive programs cover topics such as plastic pollution, climate change, human impact issues, classification, conservation and life cycles to name a few.

We can also tailor our programs to your classrooms’ current unit theme for all levels of school learning.

What we’re known for

Ocean Life Education is proud to be involved in educating tomorrow’s leaders in environmental awareness and protection.

We are pleased to have presented at renowned environmental events such as Indigiscapes, Sunshine Coast University’s World Environment Day and and Explorama as well as the Australian Association for Environmental Educator’s World Environmental Education Congress in Brisbane 2011.

We’ve also featured on children’s television program, Totally Wild, twice.

We are leaders in environmental education

We are of the firm belief that Australia is a leading nation in environmental education, but we are only scratching the surface, we must be resolute and continue to develop and alter the general populations’ mindset and put environmental sustainability at the top of the list of priorities.

The job of looking after and sustaining our environment for the future isn’t just one for the governments it is one for everybody.

What to expect:

  • Qualified marine educators arrive at your school or event and set up an area for discussion, storytelling, resource exploration and of course hands on interaction.
  • We bring fascinating live marine animals, artefacts, games and information.
  • Students may encounter baby sharks, turtles, sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and more.
  • Open display tubs are used for easy interaction and provide an entertaining, educational programme that lasts in the student’s minds forever.
  • When we leave, students are talking about the live animals for weeks!

What more information?

For more information, visit our School Programs page or Contact Us to make a booking.