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The box jellyfish

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The Box Jellyfish is known as one of the most venomous creatures in the world and has caused significant injuries and fatalities (Straw 2010). Due to the box jellyfish’s dangerous nature much research has been carried out in regards to its physical appearance, habitat, mating habits and its known predators. Further research has been done in the area of its venomous properties and effective first aid procedures. It is hoped that with a better understanding of the box jelly fish, humans will be able to co-exist with it and be safer in the water. Box jellyfish are commonly found on the northern shores of Australia (Edmonds 2000).

The box jellyfish seem to move towards the shore in calm waters when the tide is rising and gather near the mouths of rivers, estuaries and creeks following the rain (Gershwin 2002). These are also areas that are frequented by humans in their pursuit of leisure activities and therefore place humans at risk of being stung by the box jelly fish. The jellyfish has four distinct sides and is cubed shaped. This is what has given these jellyfish their common name of “ Box Jellyfish”. A fully grown box jellyfish measures up to 20 centimetres along each box side and the tentacles can grow up to three metres in length.

Each side has approximately 15 tentacles and 5000 nematocysts, which are the little stinging cells located on their tentacles. The box jelly fish can weigh up to two kilograms. Box jellyfish are pale blue in colour and are translucent, which makes them invisible in the water. So much so, that for years nobody knew what was causing swimmers such excruciating pain, and sometimes killing them. The animals have eyes but no brain so no one knows how they process what they see (Birgit, 2008). Mating behaviours in box jellyfish species are quite different compared to other marine species.

Box Jellyfish usually mass spawn, during which males and females never touch while they release sperm and eggs into the ocean and let nature take its course (Live 2009). Box jellyfishes are fast-swimminghunters that move horizontally through the water up to speeds of seven kilometres an hour, with their tentacles trailing behind (Ayling 2007). This characteristic together with its translucent appearance gives it an effective means of travelling undetected and capturing its prey. It also means that humans would find them almost impossible to discover in the ocean.

The box jellyfish on the other hand has few known predators. The Sea turtle which is unaffected by the box jellyfish’s sting and venom, is one of the few animals that eat the box jellyfish(Pryor 2009). The box Jelly fish is generally regarded as the most dangerous animal in the world (Pryor 2009). Its venom, which can be fatal, is responsible for more deaths in Australia than snakes, sharks, and salt water crocodiles put together (Emergy 2008). There are thousands of millions of stinging capsules that cover their tentacles (Sutherland and Sutherland 2006).

When a swimmer bumps into the box jellyfish the thin tentacles get torn off, stick to the victim and inject the poison into their body. (Sutherland and Kennewell 1999). There are ways to minimise and survive box jellyfish stings. Small box jellyfish appear in October and grow larger throughout summer until March and April (Ayling, 2007). Swimmers are advised to stay in netted-off areas which are patrolled by life-`savers, wear covering such as long trousers or panty-hose and listen to the radio and television for warnings of the presence of the box jellyfish (Bolton 1992).

Once a person has been stung vinegar is to be poured all over the jelly-like tentacles sticking to them. This kills the tentacles so they can be removed without injecting more poison (Sutherland and Kennewell 1999). It is recommend to commence mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and seek medical help immediately, should the effected person lose consciousness. Slow sustained mouth to mouth resuscitation until help arrives is considered the most important first aid procedure (Davey 1998).

The Box Jellyfish has some unique physical characteristics which include its translucent and pale colour and its long tentacles that help it glide gracefully through the water at a high speed. Due to its unique habitat in shallow subtropical waters, which are also frequented by human beings the box jellyfish, as has been noted, can cause harm to human beings. Knowledge of the box jellyfish’s appearance and habitat is a step towards understanding this creature and hopefully this knowledge will assist in preventing injuries and fatalities.

While the venom has caused fatalities, basic first aid measures, once known and understood can and have, prevented deaths. It is important to remember that where harm has been caused by the box jellyfish it is often due to people accidently swimming in an area frequented by box jellyfish or stepping on a box jellyfish as it lazily sleeps on the bottom of the shallow ocean. The box jellyfish does not actively seek to cause harm to humans. If humansrespectthe box jellyfish’s habitat and understand firstly, how to avoid them and secondly, what first aid to administer, the general public will be a lot safer.

This can lead to a peaceful co existence with mutual respect. References: Ayling, T. (2007). The Great Barrier Reef: a world heritage national park Archerfield: Steve Parish. Birgit, L. (2008). The Australian Box Jellyfish: an exceptionally lethal creature. Retrieved from: http://www. outback-australia-travel-secrets. com/box-jellyfish. html. Bolton, F. (1992). A handbook of poisonous creatures in Australia. Gosford: Bookshelf Australia. Davey, K. (1998). A photographic guide to seashore life of Australia. Australia: New Holland. Doublet, D. 2010). Box Jellyfish Cubozoa. Retrieved from: http://animals. nationalgeographic. com/animals/invertebrates/box-jellyfish/ Edmonds, C. (2000). Field guide for medical treatment: dangerous marine Creatures. Australia: New Holland Emergy, D. (2008). The most dangerous animal in Australia. Retrieved from: http://blog. hotelclub. com/the-10-most dangerous-animals-in-Australia/. Gershwin, L. (2002). Great Barrier Reef: Box Jellyfish. Retrieved from http://www. barrierreefaustralia. com/the-great-barrier-reef/jellyfish. htm. Live, S. (2009).

The Box Jellyfish. Retrieved from: http: www. livescience. com/animals/09119-boxjelly. Pryor, K. (2009). Venom, poison and electricity. South Yarra’ MacmillanEducation. Straw, R. (2010). The Box Jellyfish: Australia’s other marine killer. http://www. jyi. org/features/ft. php? id= 189. Sutherland, S and Kennewell, S. (1999). Take care: Poisonous Australian animals. South Melbourne, Hyland House. Sutherland, S and Sutherland, J. (2006). Venomous creatures of Australia: A field guide with notes on first aid. Melbourne, Oxford University.

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