Under the scientific name of Chironex fleckeri hides what is considered the most poisonous animal on the planet , the sea wasp. A single specimen of these jellyfish contains enough venom to kill up to 600 people, so that since 1954, it is estimated that these jellyfish have been responsible for more than 5,500 deaths. Its mortal potential has also been reflected in the cinema, where it appears as the cause of the death of some characters in some films.
Characteristics of the sea wasp
These are the main characteristics of the sea wasp jellyfish :
- It is considered one of the most poisonous and deadly creatures on the planet.
- Other names given to it include chest jellyfish, box jellyfish, cubomedusa, or cubozoa jellyfish .
- These names that are given by the square-shaped body that characterizes them, from where the 60 tentacles that it presents of about 80 centimeters in length are elongated , and these can reach up to 3 meters long in adulthood.
- The size of the sea wasp ranges between 10 and 20 centimeters, not counting the tentacles, and can reach a size similar to a basketball, and they are also characterized by having a pale blue tone, being translucent and bright in the dark.
- His life is quite short, with a life expectancy that ranges from three months to half a year.
- As curiosities of the sea wasp and, an outstanding difference with respect to other jellyfish, is that they have four groups of 20 eyes, while most of the jellyfish are blind. Even so, it is still unknown if they see as such through them. This high number of eyes, together with the many sensory organs they have, would compensate for their lack of a brain .
After knowing some of its most important characteristics, another question that usually assails us is knowing where the sea wasp is, that is, where can we find it?
Sea wasps inhabit mainly tropical waters of Northern Australia , generally displaced towards the coast due to marine currents. Here they cohabit with one of their close beings, the Irukandji ( Carukia barnesi ), a tiny jellyfish of the same order as the sea wasp and that is known to cause the Irukandji syndrome, a rare disease first detected in 1922 that causes severe pain, tachycardia, nausea, sweating and hypertension ending with the death of the victim.
The box jellyfish also inhabit the entire Indian and Pacific Oceans . However, specimens have also been detected in areas of New Guinea, Vietnam and the Philippines. Although the sea wasp has a wide geographic distribution and can move great distances, adults tend to stay in small restricted areas. Even so, the presence of this jellyfish is still being studied elsewhere in the ocean.
In addition, during the months of October and May, sea wasps approach the coasts to reproduce and, due to this event, in many places, such as Queensland in northwest Australia, bathing is prohibited during this period. . Here you can learn a little more about how jellyfish reproduce .
What does the sea wasp eat
Like all other jellyfish, sea wasps feed on plankton and small marine animals . In general, their diet is limited to what reaches them, since they do not hunt and therefore do not go looking for food. On some occasions, in addition to eating plankton , some of the small marine animals that we have mentioned that eat can also be smaller jellyfish , so they become predators of other species of jellyfish. Through their stinging tentacles, these jellyfish manage to catch and kill their prey easily.
As for the predators of the sea wasp , the green turtle ( Chelonia mydas ) can feed on sea wasps, since its thick skin prevents them from being seriously bitten by this dangerous species.
Along their tentacles, sea wasps have millions of microscopic hooks (up to five billion), called cnidocytes, filled with venom inside. A single sting results in skin necrosis and extreme pain, and this venom contains a complex mixture of proteins and toxins that is myotoxic, hemolytic, dermonecrotic and lethal, as they attack the heart, the nervous system and the respiratory system , in addition to to the skin and muscle cells of the area that receives the bite.
In humans they can cause death from cardiac arrest or paralysis from pain within minutes. In fact, the pain caused by the slightest touch with the jellyfish is so intense that it can cause shock in the victim and, being in the water, they drown, as they usually do not have time to reach the shore.
In relation to other jellyfish, it has been determined that the pain caused by the venom of the sea wasp is at least 10 times more powerful than that of the Portuguese man-of- war ( Physalia physalis ) and, at least, several orders of magnitude more potent than that of the sea nettle ( Chrysaora quinquecirrha ). It has also been seen that, with very light contact with sea wasps and in which the victim has managed to survive, this venom causes significant scarring marks on the skin similar to those that leave a deep lash.
As an interesting fact, in the middle of last year, researchers at the University of Sydney, in Australia, discovered an antidote against the sting of sea wasp jellyfish , with which they are in the process of developing a topical application for humans.