BIO 203

Interesting Facts


Discovery in an Unusual Way

                                                                                                                                                                                            Wikimedia Commons: GondwanaGirl

     Dr. Jack Barnes was a medical doctor in Australia that saw many patients come to the hospital, suffering from a jellyfish sting, and a number of them claimed to have never seen the culprit of their sickness. This hellish sickness had already been given the name “Irukandji Syndrome,” but the species responsible was not yet known. Dr. Barnes was determined to discover the organism and deduced that he had to go in the water because no one had ever found such a species on shore. So, he swam in unsafe water where jellyfish stings were frequent. On December 10, 1961 he barely noticed a tiny, rather translucent jelly float in front of the glass of his diver’s mask. He captured it, and a life guard, Don Ludbey, captured another when he had noticed “an erratically swimming fish” that was being stung by the organism. In order to conclude whether this was the culprit of Irukandji Syndrome, Dr. Barnes decided to perform a crazy experiment: He stung himself, his nine year-old son, and life guard Don Ludbey. Within thirty minutes, they were all experiencing extreme symptoms, proving that this little jellyfish was indeed that cause of Irukandji Syndrome. All three thankfully survived. This organism is now named after its discoverer: Dr. Jack Barnes and Carukia barnesi. (Nickson 2009)


Protection from Stings

                                   Flickr: Matt Hobbs

 In 2009 Lisa-ann Gershwin and Karen Dabinett published a research paper named “Comparison of Eight Types of Protective Clothing against Irukandji Jellyfish Stings.” This study was initiated by Surf Life Saving (SLS). Gershwin and Dabinett explained that these types of experiments need to be done because “less than five percent of Queensland beach users wear any type of stinger protection,” one-third of Irukandji stings occur in coral reef environments where tourist and researches swim and dive often, and jellyfish stings are considered the “number one health hazard in tropical Australian waters.” For the data collection, they used two body suits meant for jellyfish sting protection, three types of panty hose, and three types of sportswear suits. Gershwin and Dabinett applied and dragged tentacles across the materials and then observed many different factors:

                1. Penetrability- C. barnesi tentacles are only one-fourth
                                            millimeter in diameter, making it easy to get
                                            through many looser knitted materials

                2. Adherence- tentacles remaining stuck to material can still
                                        sting while taking off a suit

                3. Crushing- if tentacles could be crushed through the fabric

                4. Durability- how often will divers and swimmers need to
                                       replace their protective suits

                5. Heat retention- a major problem for many divers and
                                              swimmers who stay in the warm water,
                                              under a hot sun, for long periods of time

                6. Exposed skin- remember Irukandjis are tiny and
                                            can potentially sting ANY part of your body

                7. Cost- always an issue of course, especially if you’re
                              vacationing on a tight budget!

                 flickr: Holly VanDine 

Gershwin and Dabinett concluded that there is no perfect protective suit. Often times, if one suit had small holes and thicker material, heat retention became an issue, or larger holes and thinner material left larger amounts of skin exposed, but were cheaper and decreased the possibility of heat retention. Gershwin, Dabinett, and SLS do not promote one particular type or brand of protective suit, but they do stress one key point that everyone should keep in mind when heading to beaches that have jellyfish (f.y.i., not just Australia has jellyfish!).


It is strongly recommended that when swimming in waters known to have jellyfish, some amount of the body, if not the entire body, should be covered with some form of protective clothing. Be smart and be safe!


                       Next stop: Irukandji Syndrome



Last Updated: April, 26, 2013

Wikimedia Commons: Peter Southwood     Wikimedia Commons: GondwanaGirl    Wikimedia Commons: Zaneta Nemcokova