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jellyfish venom harpoon at 40,000 Gs...ouch!
June 13, 2007 9:58 PM   Subscribe

An "order of magnitude older than the dinosaurs," even older than clams, bugs, vertebrates, are jellyfish. At almost 600 million years old, jellyfish are some of the oldest animals on the earth that have survived the test of time. Dr. Lisa-ann Gershwin, (yes, of that Gershwin family) is a scientist studying jellyfish in Queensland, Australia and was recently interviewed by the ABC. I was particularly disturbed by her gripping description of the tiny Irukandji jellyfish and how the venom affects humans. This summer, swim at your own risk.
posted by gen (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
This will keep me out of the water this summer:
Bob McDonald: Well what does it do to the body?

Lisa Gershwin: Well, I hope you're sitting down for this, it's pretty mind blowing. It gives you incredible lower back pain that you would think of as similar to an electric drill drilling into your back. It gives you relentless nausea and vomiting; how does vomiting every minute to two minutes for up to 12 hours sound, incredible. It gives waves of full bodied cramps, profuse sweating, the nurses have to wring out the bed sheets every 15 minutes; it gives you very, very difficulty in breathing where you just feel like you can't catch your breath. It gives you these weird muscular restlessness so you can't stop moving but every time you move it hurts. It gives you a feeling impending doom, incredible, patients believe they are going to die and there are so certain of it that they'll actually beg the doctors to kill them just to get it over with. And all of this from this little tiny jellyfish, it's absolutely amazing. And by the way, you might be thinking ooh, I'm not going to Australia, they've got killer jellyfish there. Well, guess what - they are in North America also and they are in Europe and they are in South America and they're in India and South East Asia and they are in Hawaii - they are all over the place - they are in the Florida Keys. We get Irukandjis, believe it or not, from North Wales in the UK to Victoria, Melbourne actually, in southern Victoria and Capetown in southern Africa. So pretty much in all the usable oceans of the world we get Irukandjis. Just because you haven't heard of them doesn't mean they're not there. I don't want to scare you, that's just the truth.
posted by gen at 9:59 PM on June 13, 2007


In 1964, Dr. Jack Barnes confirmed the cause of the syndrome to be due to the small box-shaped Irukandji jellyfish. In order to prove that the jellyfish was the cause of the syndrome, he captured one and deliberately stung himself, his 9-year-old son, and a local lifeguard, and observed the symptoms.

'S Wonderful.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:16 PM on June 13, 2007


AUGH!!!
posted by daq at 10:35 PM on June 13, 2007


What a great post.

Apparently there is a species of jellyfish which is immortal. Evolution has really gone downhill since the good old days.
posted by enn at 10:56 PM on June 13, 2007


Holy crap! I don't know what sounds worse, this jellyfish or that parasitic, flesh-eating Amazonian fish that lodges itself in one's urethra. But at least I don't have to worry about that f'ing fish in "every usable ocean." Sheesh, I don't know if I'm ever going near seawater again.
posted by treepour at 11:00 PM on June 13, 2007


The ghost at number one.
posted by sourwookie at 11:16 PM on June 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought these nasty things were only in tropical Australia. What I wish was more clear is, how thick does a wetsuit (or bodysuit) need to be to protect against this?

Years ago, I was walking along a shallow lagoon in Key West, and there were small jellyfish everywhere (the water was only 12" deep or less). They are beautiful and fascinating. Otherwise, I'm used to only seeing dead ones on the beaches. We have a snail here in South Africa which eats the dead ones on the shore.
posted by Goofyy at 11:25 PM on June 13, 2007


Bastard little things. This is my lovely local beach. Alas, you can almost never swim there.
posted by Jimbob at 11:27 PM on June 13, 2007


how thick does a wetsuit (or bodysuit) need to be to protect against this?

From the interview with Dr. Gershwin, she mentions a "full body lycra suit" which is basically a swimsuit, not neoprene. Lycra's very thin (many competition swimsuits are made of Lycra) so I don't think anything very thick is required. That said, you'd want it covering all parts of your flesh (head, neck, feet, hands.)
posted by gen at 11:36 PM on June 13, 2007


When I took zoology in college, we studied jellyfish. What I think is the most cool thing about them is that they alternate forms in alternate generations.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:41 AM on June 14, 2007


How does it feel to be the only one that know's when you're right, Sourwookie?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:38 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Apparently there is a species of jellyfish which is immortal.

Actually, they say "potentially" immortal.

Evolution has really gone downhill since the good old days.

I'd imagine that immortality is seldom the most advantageous trait as far as natural selection goes. Remember, natural selection selects the most successful genes, not the most successful single organism.
posted by grouse at 2:17 AM on June 14, 2007


Jellyfish all around
posted by Dave Faris at 4:10 AM on June 14, 2007


Jellyfish heaven
Is not like Japan
Jellyfish heaven
Is not like Thailand
Jellyfish heaven...
Is a lot...
Like LA
posted by Mick at 5:17 AM on June 14, 2007


'Round these parts they call 'em nettles. It's the chicken-necking come-to's what call 'em jelly-fish.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:28 AM on June 14, 2007


When I took zoology in college, we studied jellyfish. What I think is the most cool thing about them is that they alternate forms in alternate generations.

Agreed. They're generally awesome. Hagfish, though: super awesome.

Life's risky. Don't let every potentially harmful thing under the sun keep you from enjoying it. Just be reasonably aware of risks, and navigate accordingly. News stations have a vested interest in delivering scary information to keep you tuning in. Don't let them freak you out.
posted by Tehanu at 7:25 AM on June 14, 2007


What I wish was more clear is, how thick does a wetsuit (or bodysuit) need to be to protect against this?

Lycra's very thin (many competition swimsuits are made of Lycra) so I don't think anything very thick is required. That said, you'd want it covering all parts of your flesh (head, neck, feet, hands.)


You can even wear pantyhose/nylons. The nematocysts can't penetrate the mesh.

The other really creepy thing about Cubozoans (box jellies) is that they can see you (sort of). The first thing we learned when going night diving in the Caribbean was not to turn on our dive lights at the surface, because the box jellies would swim right towards the light. Unfortunately, I was still in the water one night when my friends turned on their lights to search for something on the boat. I got stung by a Carybdea alata. It felt like someone had set a piece of yarn on fire and wrapped it around my wrist. I had a spiraling mark around my wrist and up my forearm for at least a week, but at least it didn't do anything other that sting terribly for a half an hour or so (and then itch incessantly for a couple days.)
posted by nekton at 7:37 AM on June 14, 2007


I wore a stinger suit to scuba dive and snorkel while I was sailing down the East coast of Australia a couple of years ago. As long as you're covered, jellyfish aren't a huge concern. Uncovered, however.....yikes.

I had a friend who was working at a Whitsunday island resort who expressed profound disgust at the parents who let their children swim uncovered at the beach. They call irukandjis "vacation ruiners" for a reason.
posted by quite unimportant at 9:14 AM on June 14, 2007


... It gives you a feeling impending doom, incredible, patients believe they are going to die and there are so certain of it that they'll actually beg the doctors to kill them just to get it over with.

It causes intense ball pain. It pees in the punchbowl. It gets your sister pregnant and laughs about it. It declares bankruptcy on your behalf just to ruin your credit rating. It causes you to lose your faith in the Almighty.

(Christ, that jellyfish is an asshole.)
posted by LordSludge at 10:25 AM on June 14, 2007


But jellyfish salad is yummmmmy.
posted by porpoise at 11:26 AM on June 14, 2007


http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/126
posted by reflection at 12:16 PM on June 14, 2007


A bit off topic, but I wonder why someone suffering from this (which the "maximum" does of morphine apparently doesn't help) wouldn't be given a dissociative anesthetic (like they give to some burn victims).
posted by treepour at 1:43 PM on June 14, 2007


I dunno about you, treepour, but I'd give 'em some 'shrooms.
posted by LordSludge at 1:55 PM on June 14, 2007


yeah, because 'shrooms always help with nausea. . .
posted by flaterik at 2:27 PM on June 14, 2007


This probably goes without saying but, just to be clear, I wasn't bringing up dissociative anesthesia because of its psychedelic properties.
posted by treepour at 3:33 PM on June 14, 2007


Thanks for the nightmares. I have been thinking about this all day. ):
posted by exlotuseater at 8:40 PM on June 14, 2007


Scary yes but also definitely one of the Earth's most beautiful and hypnotizing creatures. I've been stung by one — it hurt like a sting, but it wasn't too terrible, and the bugger was pretty small. I always feel the wrath of the broken tentacles on any uncovered flesh when I go diving though.
posted by Brittanie at 10:32 PM on June 14, 2007


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