Irukandji Jellyfish

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Irukandji jellyfish are tiny and extremely venomous jellyfish that are found mostly near Australia, and which cause symptoms collectively known as Irukandji syndrome. Its size is roughly no larger than a centimeter cubed. There are two known species, Carukia barnesi and the recently discovered Malo kingi. The symptoms of Irukandji syndrome were first documented by Hugo Flecker in 1952 and named after the Irukandji people whose country stretches along the coastal strip north of Cairns, Queensland. The first-known of these jellyfish, Carukia barnesi, was identified in 1964 by Dr. Jack Barnes; in order to prove it was the cause of Irukandji syndrome, he captured the tiny jelly and stung himself, his son, and a life guard. The jellyfish is very small, with a bell about one centimeter wide and four tentacles, which range in length from just a few centimeters to up to 35 cm in length. The stingers (nematocysts) are in clumps, appearing as rings of small red dots around the bell and along the tentacles. Very little is known about the life cycle and venom of Irukandji jellyfish. This is partly because they are small and sufficiently fragile to require special handling and containment. Researchers conjecture that its venom possesses such potency to enable it to quickly stun its prey, which consists of small and fast fish. Judging from statistics, it is believed that the Irukandji syndrome may be produced by several species of jellyfish, but only Carukia barnesi and Malo kingi have so far been proven to cause the syndrome. Irukandji syndrome is produced by a very small amount of venom and includes severe pains at various parts of the body (typically excruciating muscle cramps in the arms and legs, severe pain in the back and kidneys, a burning sensation of the skin and face), headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, high heart rate and blood pressure, and psychological phenomena (such as the feeling of impending death). The syndrome is in part caused by release of catecholamines. The venom contains a sodium channel modulator. The sting itself is only moderately irritating; the severe syndrome is delayed for 5120 minutes (30 minutes on average). The symptoms may last from hours to several days, and victims usually require hospitalization. As with box jellyfish, vinegar will deactivate unfired nematocysts on the skin, but has no effect on the venom already in the body. Treatment is symptomatic, with antihistamines and anti-hypertensive drugs used to control inflammation and hypertension and intravenous opiates, such as morphine and fentanyl, to control the pain. Magnesium sulfate has been used to reduce pain and hypertension in Irukandji syndrome, although it has had no effect in other cases. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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