[Coral-List] sea wasps

Keven Reed reedkc at comcast.net
Wed Jul 18 06:44:08 EDT 2007

Dear Megan & coral-listers,
    If you are looking at cubozoan cnidarians in the genus Carybdea, they are certainly known for huge population blooms in various parts of the world, but fortunately do not have a record for killing humans (though quite painful at times), as do chirodropids in the Western Pacific such as Chiropsalmus quadrigatus and Chironex fleckeri.  

    Some areas have discouraged the traditional term 'sea wasps', so that tourists don't look skyward for "wasps" flying near the sea while wading into a cubozoan bloom due to a misunderstanding of what type of animal was being called an insect....last time I was in Queensland, Australia, they were shifting to the common term "box jellies".

    Back to your presumed Carybdea box jelly population increase:  Every summer there are literally hundreds of Carybdea box jelly stings at Hanauma Bay on Oahu, Hawaii (no fatalities) when their population increases dramatically around the tenth or eleventh day after a full moon on the southern and western Oahu beaches.  

    I was on Okinawa, Japan in the 1990's when two fatalities occurred from stings by Chiropsalmus quadrigatus, a fairly large box jelly, though not as large as the tropical Australian Chrionex fleckeri.  Both deceased were children.

    In 2002 in separate incidents, an adult British tourist and an adult American tourist were killed by stings of a very tiny cubozoan, Carukia barnesi.  Interestingly, this small box jelly has nematocysts on the bell, whereas one can pick up the deadly, large Chironex fleckeri by the bell without being stung.

    The most notorious box jelly, the Australian Chironex fleckeri, does not necessarily kill with an accidental human sting (venom load equals amount of soft skin contacted by length of tentacles, etc.).  To put it in perspective, one reference stated there were 36 documented chirodropid deaths over 110 years (more than a century) in Queensland. Australia.  Another perspective is that there were 225 confirmed C. fleckeri stings in the Northern Territory of Australia over a fifteen year period from April 1991 to May 2004.

    The four box jellies I have references for human fatalities are Chiropalmus quadrumanus (a child at Crystal Beach, Texas in 1990, JAMA Sep 11, 1991, Vol 266 (10): 1404-1406), Carukia barnesi, Chiropsalmus quadrigatus, and Chironex fleckeri.

    If you want to follow the literature on clinical cases of the Western Pacific stings by box jellies, the Medical Journal of Australia is a good read.  Southcott did the taxonomy on several of the box jellies in tropical Australia in the 1950's and 1960's.  Also, a good general textbook on these matters is the 2002 U. of New South Wales Press, Venomous & Poisonous Marine Animals, by Williamson, Fenner, Burnett & Rifkin.  I'm fortunate to own a delightful 1986 monograph by Barbara Kinsey from James Cook U. of North Queensland, titled Barnes on Box Jellyfish.

    Some experts/researchers on box jellies include Cheryl Lewis at the Smithsonian (studied life cycle of Carybdea savickisi),  Jamie Seymour & Teresa Carrette in Australia, and Bastian Bentlage at the U. of Kansas.

    I, for one, would be greatly interested to learn if you confirm the specific id of the box jellies you are observing.  Thanks,

Keven Reed, O.D.
1651 Country Walk Drive
Orange Park, FL  32003

cell:  904-505-7277


----- Original Message ----- 
  From: megan berkle 
  To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov 
  Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 9:11 AM
  Subject: [Coral-List] sea wasps

     Dear coral-listers:

     I  am  working  in San Salvador Island, Bahamas for the summer.  I was
     night snorkelling on dump reef situated in Graham's harbor (north part
     of  the  island).   I was waiting for the soft corals to spawn until I
     noticed  a  swarm  of  what  appeared to be sea wasps.  I thought this
     might  be  an  isolated  instance.   However, while diving in Rice Bay
     (north part of the island) I realized the entire bottom of the bay was
     covered  with  100's  of  sea  wasps.  They seem to be concentrated in
     shallow  water  (~10  feet)  right above the sandy areas.  Does anyone
     know  if  these  sea wasps are often seen in large numbers in Bahamian
     waters?  Are they as toxic as those found in the Indo-Pacific?

     Megan Berkle

     [1]See what youre getting intobefore you go there 


     1. http://g.msn.com/8HMAENUS/2749??PS=47575
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