Box jellyfish are marine organisms of the class Cubozoa. They are highly poisonous and, therefore, highly dangerous. Not only do box jellyfish give off hazardous venom, they're also extremely rapid swimmers, adding to their overall intimidating reputation. These gelatinous creatures often reside in waters off Australia, Hawaii and southeastern Asia.
The box element of the box jellyfish name is derived from the overall impression of their physiques. If you observe these guys from higher up, you can easily make out their square or "boxy" form. Their bodies are adorned with nematocysts, which are wee stingers that give off their potent venom. Box jelly poison is capable of stopping animals from moving -- and also of immediately destroying them. Not only is their venom a hazard to their usual invertebrate targets, it also is perilous to people. Box jellyfish stings can lead to all sorts of issues in humans, including breathing problems, intense skin burning sensations and even cardiac arrest. Because of these serious possibilities, urgent and immediate medical assistance is always a must in the event of box jellyfish stings, no exceptions. The stings are sometimes deadly to people.
When it comes to food, box jellyfish like their meals fleshy. Some of the preferred foods include tiny fishes, arrow worms, annelid worms, mantis shrimps and prawns from the family Sergestidae. They are big on crustaceans in general. Box jellyfish sometimes even munch on fellow jellyfish, albeit of different species. These invertebrates are carnivorous to the core.
Box jellyfish are tough, fierce predators. They use their tentacles to retrieve and weaken their prey animals. Once their tentacles touch prey, their nematocysts immediately make their way onto the skin and begin the process of releasing venom. This triggers paralysis in the animal and the rest is history -- or mealtime, to be precise. Box jellyfish are speedy eaters, and sometimes polish off their meals in mere minutes.
Animals That Eat Box Jellyfish
Box jellyfish are undoubtedly menacing to most animals, a result of their threatening tentacles and venom. Predators of the species are few and far between. Despite that, they are still susceptible to predation, namely by green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Box jellyfish venom, simply put, cannot get through these turtles' dense skin and, because of that, it isn't at all harmful to them. Mature green turtles feed mostly on plants, but box jellyfish is a common meal for youngsters of the species.
- Journal of Young Investigators: The Box Jellyfish - Australia's Other Marine Killer
- University of California Museum of Paleontology: Introduction to Cubozoa - The Box Jellies
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Chironex fleckeri
- Queensland Ambulance Service: Box Jellyfish
- Northern Territory Government: Box Jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri)
- The Australian Venom Compendium: Box Jellyfish
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images