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Box Jellyfish
  > Classification
Irukandji Jellyfish
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Dangerous Australia • Jellyfish
Like any country, Australia has it share of creatures that can prove dangerous or fatal. Of the many dangerous creatures that can injure or fatally kill people among them include the jellyfish.

Of the number of different jellyfish, some can cause extreme pain when stung by them and are not necessarily life-threatening, however others can prove fatal. The following information and links have been provided as a starting point to make yourself aware.


There is a group of jellyfish (also called ‘stingers’) that frequent the tropical waters in Queensland’s. The majority of stings are inflicted by jellyfish such as Blubbers (Catostylus sp.), Bluebottles (Physalia sp.) and Hair Jellyfish (Cyanea sp.). Although the stings from these particular jellyfish may be painful, they rarely cause life-threatening symptoms.

Most of the scyphozoan jellyfish found in the waters of North Queensland are also found in other oceans.


Box Jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri)

Australia’s most dangerous jellyfish species found in the waters of North Queensland, mainly between November to June. This species can cause serious injuries and fatalities, and on average there is about one death per year, since the keeping of records. As people have become better educated about the risks of swimming unprotected in waters where they are found, the death rate has declined.

Being almost transparent, the box shaped jellyfish has up to 15 tentacle on each corner of the bell, with each tentacle, growing up to 3 metres in length, and capable of inflicting potentially fatal stings. When you come in contact with the Box Jellyfish, it injects multiple doses of venom, with the stinging cells acting like an adhesive device on the skin, injecting toxin directly into the blood vessels. You should not rub  a box jellyfish ssting.

Also known as ‘Sea Wasps’, this name is misleading to visitors in the tropics, as it gives rise to the misconception that they can fly.

Symptoms: Stings appear as red whip-like welts on the skin and are excruciatingly painful. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, swelling and breathing difficulties. The toxin is thought to act directly on the cardiac muscle, and the pulmonary system, causing your breathing to shut down, hence suffocation. Severe stings can also cause the heart to stop. Immediate first aid is required. Wash the affected area with household vinegar and seek immediate medical assistance.

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Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Cubozoa
Order: Cubomedusae
Family: Chirodropidae
Genus: Chironex
Species: C. fleckeri
Binomial name: Chironex fleckeri

Irukandji Jellyfish (Carukia barnesi)

One of a box jellyfish series of species that causes painful symptoms that gave rise to ‘Irukandji syndrome’. This venomous box jellyfish occurs in the northern waters of Australia. There has been one recorded fatality.

‘Irukandji syndrome’ was named by Hugo Flecker in 1952, after an aboriginal tribe of Cairns.

Symptoms: The symptoms of a sting may include nausea, severe muscular pain in the limbs, stomach and chest, anxiety, restlessness, headache, vomiting, sweating and shaking. These symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes after the initial sting. If stung, seek immediate medical aid, as symptoms may become severe. Apply immediate first aid by washing the affected area with household vinegar and seek immediate medical assistance.

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Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Cubozoa
Order: Cubomedusae
Family: Carybdeidae
Genus: Carukia
Species: C. barnesi
Binomial name: Carukia barnesi

Jellyfish • Other links

Australian Institute of Marine Science
• PMB 3, Townsville MC,0 TOWNSVILLE QLD 4810 • Ph: 07 4753 4444 • Fax: 07 4772 5852 • Email
Check out their info on the Box Jellyfish.
CRC Reef
• 6th Floor, Northtown Towers, TOWNSVILLE QLD 4810 • Ph: 07 4729 8400 • Fax: 07 4729 8499 • Email
Follow the Coral Reefs link for some information on the Irukandji Jellyfish.
Lisa’s Atlas of Australia / Medusozoa Home Page Email Check out the section on Jellyfish.
Email • by Dr Peter Fenner Follow the Biology link for Jellyfish.
Beware Marine StingersMarine Stingers
During the warmer months 'Marine Stingers' may be present in tropical waters, by taking a few simple precautions you can minimise risks associated with these two types of potentially dangerous jellyfish.
A program by the International Society for Infectious Diseases, this site is the global electronic reporting system for outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases and toxins. Link to Toxic Jellyfish - Australia.
Queensland Health: Health Island Resorts
• GPO Box 48, BRISBANE QLD 4001 • Ph: +61 7 3234 0111 / +61 7 3234 1561 (Info re website)
A site for management and staff of island resorts to effectively manage public health risks in their particular occupation, and, to take care of their personal health and well-being whilst living and/or working on an island resort. Follow the Topics link to Jellyfish.
California Wild The Magazine of the California Academy of Sciences
Article: Stinging Seas - Tread Softly in Tropical Waters, by Gary C. Williams.


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