Climate Change May Be Spreading These Deadly Doom-Inducing Jellyfish

Many beaches in northern Queensland experience stinger season every year, during which the Irukandji jellyfish breed and swimming is not recommended. Adam Calaitzis/Shutterstock

As if there was not enough to worry about in Australia, it seems that the warming oceans are likely to cause the spread of a deadly jellyfish that has been reported to induce a sense of doom in those who get stung.

Reports of the highly venomous Irukandji jellyfish (of which there are up to 25 different species) drifting further south along the east coast of Australia than usual have sparked renewed concern that the warming oceans are allowing the typically tropical species of jellyfish to expand their range, dramatically increasing the chances that they will come into contact with people.

One expert has warned that this drift down the coast of Queensland could potentially risk tourism right along the popular Sunshine Coast all the way down to the Gold Coast, after one jellyfish – also known as stingers – was found off the western side of Fraser Island this week. People are now being warned to stay out of the water on this side of the island for fear that there are more of the almost invisible creatures.

The jellyfish are pretty hard to spot. GondwanaGirl/Wikimedia Commons

This follows 10 suspected cases of Irukandji stings that have occurred in these waters between December 2016 and January 2017. Experts are concerned that as climate change is warming the oceans, it is not only killing the coral on which much of this tourism depends, but also spreading the deadly jellyfish, and that no one is taking these threats seriously enough.

The Irukandji jellyfish is one of the most deadly (and weirdest) creatures swimming the waters of Australia. With a transparent body only a few centimeters long, the Irukandji jellyfish might not look like much, but don’t let that deceive you. A type of box jellyfish, the creature is known to be one of the most venomous in the world.

While the jelly itself is only a few centimeters, its stingers can be up to a meter. Anynobody/Wikimedia Commons

People have described the pain as excruciating, lasting for up to 12 hours as it causes nausea, vomiting, and agonizing stomach and muscle cramps. For between 10-15 percent of patients, it causes cardiac problems as their heart rate and blood pressure soar, while in some the stings can even lead to fatal brain hemorrhages.

But believe it or not, that is not even the worst thing about the Irukandji sting. Even just a small amount of the jellyfish’s venom can induce a bizarre psychological phenomenon: The stings can lead patients to develop a feeling of impending doom, with some cases even reporting that patients have been so convinced that they were going to die that they begged the doctors to kill them first.  

The Queensland Tourism Industry chief is keen to point out that there is no need to panic, but it is recommended that if you do get stung, to douse the area in vinegar and seek medical help immediately.


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