The Irukandji Jellyfish, also know as the peanut jellyfish, is less than 5mm in diameter but pack a venom so toxic it can kill a man.
No creature quite encapsulates the spirit of small but mighty quite like the Irukandji Jellyfish Carukia barnesi, which is not only the smallest jellyfish in existence but also one of the most venomous creatures on earth.
Native to the oceans surrounding Australia and the U.S.A, this peanut sized invertebrate has a bell shaped body with a diameter around 25mm, while its long spindly tentacles can reach up 1m long. The deadly sting of this jellyfish can be delivered by the tips of the tentacles or by the bell and causes a distinct set of symptoms which are collectively known as Irukandji Syndrome.
The sting feels similar to a mosquito bite but the symptoms of Irukandji Syndrome can include headache, backache, nausea, fever, vomiting, muscle spasms, chest and abdominal pain, sweating, anxiety, hypertension, tachycardia and pulmonary oedema. Some patients also feel a sense of “impending doom” due to the release of catecholamines which can be so profound victims have previously asked doctors to kill them just to get it over with. The symptoms usually set in within half an hour of being stung and can last anywhere from 4 – 30 hours, with it usually taking a further two weeks before the unlucky victim feels back to normal.
The sting of the Irukandji has a potency 100 times that of a cobra and 1,000 times that of a tarantula, despite being a fraction of the size. There is no direct antidote so all that can be done is to manage the symptoms. It is thought that pouring vinegar over the sting helps to alleviate some of the pain by neutralising the pH, but this won’t do anything to negate the systemic symptoms caused by the venom. Also, vinegar isn’t exactly high on most people’s list when headed for a day at the beach.
The exact number of deaths caused by the Irukandji Jelly is unknown as, given it’s tiny size, victims aren’t always aware they’ve been stung. Coroners may also miss the jelly as a possibility and instead state the cause of death as an underlying heart condition. In November 2016, two French tourists were found having suffered heart attacks whilst snorkelling around the great barrier reef. An Australian Cardiologist stated the Irukandji Jellyfish as the probable suspect given how unusual it would be for two, otherwise healthy, holiday makers to die in the same place just minutes apart from each other.
In short; everything in Australia, no matter how small, will kill you.
Click here to find out what tiny creature is capable of making the loudest sound in the ocean.
In need of some cheerful news? Check out the Good News Goat for the latest and lightest news from the world of animals.