Saturday, February 09, 2008

Over-ocellated ocean organism...

Buy a red wet suit. Stay by a red pole...strange advice but it could save your life from an ocean organism that despite being 'soft' is in fact a sophisticated and terrifying killer: 4 brains, 24 eyes, highly toxic and copious venom that remains deadly even after the organism has died, a complex polypeptide venom that hasn't revealed its secrets to scientists despite decades of research. Does that sound bad...oh, but it gets worse:

"...if comes under sustained attack it responds by sending its compatriots into a super-breeding frenzy in which millions of replacements are created." ... "The box jellyfish is so packed with venom that the briefest of touches can bring agonising death within 180 seconds."

It gets worse still!!! We used to thing they drifted around aimlessly at the mercy of the tides, floating where they were driven on the currents; this not so:

"On the other side of the world scientists who managed to place tracking devices on the jellyfish in the Pacific proved that they were not drifting on the ocean currents but heading determinedly - and at the speed of an Olympic swimmer - towards the coast."

Just in case you're wondering about my first comment, well jellyfish, at least the ones they've tried to keep out of swimming areas, have a "highly complex sensory capacity and the ability to distinguish colour" - they appear to be very sensitive to colour and the only deterrent found so far, according to reports (see first link) is the colour red. Obviously the really deadly creatures are far off from many of us - both the Irukandji and Box jellyfish (in fact both are Cubozoa, not jellyfish) are in the South Pacific but they're on the move - and don't think the occurance of incidents aren't getting more common in cooler water nearer to home; reports like this one are positively scary and of course it isn't the first time and although those links refer to fish farms the danger to swimmers, even in the UK is clear!

2 comments:

Paul said...

First paragraph reminds me of that old joke - what's got four hundred legs and five pubic hairs? Front row at a Take That concert.

There were sighting of jellyfish off the UK coast last summer weren't there, I'll swap my blue swimming shorts for red ones I think.

Span said...

Thanks for all your comments Paul, I had a blitz yesterday..bit like yourself the other day.

Not red shorts...red longs!

Funnily enough it isn't such a 'new' phenomenum becaus eI recall a childhood holiday in Wales when the beach was absolutely cobvered in jellyfish...that would have been late 60's, maybe it's a cyclic thing although it seems to be getting more common...that inavsion of the fish farm really spooked me for some reason...jus imagining a 'cloud' moving in, invisible above the surface, and wiping out all in it's path.