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Jellyfish Sting Newsletters: Number 39 - July 2008


  1. Higgins, JE 3rd, Ford MD, Costello JH. Transitions in morphology, nematocyst distribution, fluid motions, and prey capture during development of the scyphomedusa Cyanea capillata. Biol Bull. 2008 Feb; 214(1):29-41

    Like that of most scyphozoans, the ontogeny of Cyanea capillata medusae involves substantive alterations in feeding structures and mechanics. We used video and optical microscopy approaches to quantify these ontogenetic changes in morphology, flow, and feeding of C. capillata medusae. We found that alterations in gross morphology and nematocyst distributions coincided with a shift from prey capture on the manubrium or lappets of ephyrae (bell diameter 0.2-0.4 cm) to capture primarily on the tentacles in adult medusae (diameter > 1.0 cm). These changes occurred within a hydrodynamic framework that itself changed due to medusan growth. Viscous forces were important in flows around small ephyrae (maximum Re < 10(1)), whereas viscosity was less influential in the inertially dominated flows around adult medusae (Re > 10(2)). The relative timing of these events indicates that ontogenetic processes are closely synchronized with alterations in the hydrodynamic environment within which C. capillata medusae develop.

  2. Brinkman D, Burnell J. Partial purification of cytolytic venom proteins from the box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri. Toxicon 2008; 51(5):853-863.

    Venom proteins from the nematocysts of Chironex fleckeri were fractionated by size-exclusion and cation-exchange chromatography. Using sheep erythrocyte haemolysis as an indicator of cytolytic activity, two major cytolysins, with native molecular masses of approximately 370 and 145kDa, and one minor cytolysin (approximately 70kDa) were isolated. SDS-PAGE and western blot protein profiles revealed that the 370kDa haemolysin is composed of CfTX-1 and CfTX-2 subunits (approximately 43 and 45kDa, respectively); the most abundant proteins found in C. fleckeri nematocyst extracts. The 145kDa haemolysin predominately contains two other major proteins (approximately 39 and 41kDa), which are not antigenic towards commercially available box jellyfish antivenom or rabbit polyclonal antibodies raised against whole C. fleckeri nematocyst extracts or CfTX-1 and -2. The kinetics of CfTX-1 and -2 haemolytic activities are temperature dependent and characterized by a pre-lytic lag phase (approximately 6-7min) prior to initiation of haemolysis. Significant amino acid sequence homology between the CfTX proteins and other box jellyfish toxins suggest that CfTX-1 and -2 may also be lethal and dermonecrotic. Therefore, further in vivo and in vitro studies are required to investigate the potential roles of CfTX-1 and -2 in the lethal effects of C. fleckeri venom.

  3. Underwood AH, Seymour JE. Venom ontogeny, diet and morphology in Carukia barnesi, a species of Australian box jellyfish that causes Irukandji syndrome. Toxicon 2007; 49(8):1073-1082.

    Venom profiles of two age groups of the medically important Australian box jellyfish Carukia barnesi [Southcott RV, 1967. Revision of some Carybdeidae (Scyphozoa, Cubomedusae), including description of jellyfish responsible for the Irukandji syndrome. Aust J. Zool. 15, 651-657] were compared. Sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed differences in protein banding of tentacular venom between immature and mature animals. This correlates to a change in diet from invertebrate prey in immature C. barnesi medusae to vertebrate prey in mature medusae. Unlike other cubozoan studies, a change in venom did not equate to a change in nematocyst types of their relative frequencies. Additionally, comparison of tentacle structure and bell wart number showed developmental differences between the two age classes. Observations of prey capture in mature individuals and differences in bell warts between immature and mature medusae suggest different methods of prey capture are employed at different life stage of C. barnesi.

  4. Garm A, Andersson F, Nilsson DE. Unique structure and optics of the lesser eyes of the box jellyfish Tripedalia cystophora. Vision Res. 2008; 48(8):1061-1073.

    The visual system of box jellyfish comprises a total of 24 eyes. These are of four types and each probably has a special function. To investigate this hypothesis the morphology and optics of the lesser eyes, the pit and slit eyes, were examined. The pit eyes hold one cell type only and are probably mere light meters. The slit eyes, comprising four cell types, are complex and highly asymmetric. They also hold a lens-like structure, but its optical power is minute. Optical modeling suggests spatial resolution, but only in one plane. These unique and intriguing traits support strong peripheral filtering.

  5. Winter KL, Isbister GK, Schneider JJ, Konstantakopoulos N, Seymour JE, Hodgson WC. An examination of the cardiovascular effects of an 'Irukandji' jellyfish, Alatina nr mordens. Toxicol Lett. 2008; 179(3):118-23.

    Irukandji syndrome is usually characterized by delayed severe abdominal, back and chest pain associated with autonomic effects including diaphoresis, hypertension and, in severe cases, myocardial injury and pulmonary oedema. It is most often associated with envenoming by the jellyfish Carukia barnesi, but a number of other jellyfish, including Alatina mordens, are now known to produce Irukandji syndrome. In the present study, nematocyst-derived venom from A. nr mordens (150-250 microg/kg, i.v.) produced a long-lasting pressor effect in anaesthetised rats. This pressor response (250 microg/kg, i.v.) was significantly inhibited by prior administration of the alpha-adrenoceptor antagonist prazosin (200 microg/kg, i.v.) but not by CSL box jellyfish antivenom (300 U/kg, i.v.). A. nr mordens venom 250 microg/kg (i.v.) caused marked increases in plasma adrenaline and noradrenaline concentrations following administration in anaesthetised rats. The venom did not contain appreciable amounts of either adrenaline or noradrenaline. A. nr mordens venom (25 microg/ml) produced a contractile response in rat electrically stimulated vas deferens which was markedly reduced in tissues pre-treated with reserpine (0.1mM) or guanethidine (0.1mM). Sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS)-PAGE analysis showed that A. nr mordens venom is comprised of multiple protein bands ranging from 10 to 200 kDa. Western blot analysis using CSL box jellyfish antivenom indicated several antigenic proteins in A. nr mordens venom, however, it did not detect all proteins present in the venom. This study characterizes the in vitro and in vivo effects of A. nr mordens venom and indicates that the cardiovascular effects are at least partially mediated by endogenous catecholamine release.

Lisa Ann Gershwin continues to be productive in taxonomy. Below is a partial list of her recent papers.

    6a.     Gershwin LA. Two new species of jellyfish (Cniadaria: Cubozoa: Carybdeida) from tropical Western Australia, presumed to cause Irunkandji syndrome. Zootaxa 2005; 1084:1-30.

    6b.     Gershwin LA, Alderslade P. Chiropsella bart n. sp., a new box jellyfish (Cniadaria: Cubozoa: Chirodroida) The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory. 2006; 22:15-21.

    6c.      Gershwin LA, Alderslade P. A new genus and species of box jellyfish (Cubozoa: Carybdeida) from tropical Australia waters. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory. 2005; 22:15-21.

Letters to the Editor  

  1. Burnett, JW. Erythema nodosum currently is not a proven complication of jellyfish stings. Cutis 2008; 4:323.


  1. A significant box jellyfish sting occurred at Koh Mak in Thailand resulting in temporary cessation of cardiac and respiratory functioning. Severe leg scarring will result. This case was posted January 28, 2008.

  2. Another 8 year old Swedish girl died in Koh Lanta, Thailand in late March. Her body was covered with multiple tentacles and she died within two hours.

  3. North Queensland has been the site of swarms of pink, stringy tentacled jellyfish.

  4. Chip Grayson, a 61 year old Southeastern businessman, is backing an effort to produce a phenol, 4% lidocaine aqueous topical agent, to treat jellyfish stings. He has studied efficacy by using testimonials and lifeguard observations. The commonest result is an improvement with this product they market as a "squish". We have a collection of other, somewhat similar products in our laboratories and houses – all of which have died out in popularity.

  5. An article entitled "Swarms of stinging tentacles offer hint of oceans' decline" appeared on page 1 of the New York Times on August 3, 2008. It complements a similar article on CNN the day before. The latter item paraphrased coverage by the Early Show on network television.

    The Times article mention the infestation at Barcelona by Pelagia noctiluca. They commented on an abundance of Physalia off the Spanish Atlantic coast. Several areas of the world beside s the Mediterranean have had this problem with varying species, notably Australia, Hawaii, Japan and New York. The latter location was Long Beach, NY. These phenomenon are serious nuisances to tourists and inflict painful lesions on large numbers of bathers. The causes are unknown but global warming of the seas, coastal runoff, loss of predators. pollution,and decreased water oxygen are offered as theoretical causes. Whether these swarms are indicative of some more serious change in the environment is also uncertain.

  6. The Cebu (Philippines) Daily News of August 11, 2008 reports the death of a fisherman by "cardiogenic shock" after a jellyfish sting in the Cauayan District at Barangay village located on the central eastern coast of the island. No further details.