Photo: Jenny Kirkhart (flickr)
The deadliest known creature is a jellyfish called the Sea Wasp. It’s also sometimes called a box jellyfish.
Like all jellyfish, sea wasps are translucent, boneless creatures whose bodies are made of ninety-five percent water. They don’t even have a brain!
But sea wasps do have up to sixty tentacles as long as ten feet each dangling from their bell-shaped bodies. The tentacles contain thousands of stinging cells called nematocysts.
3 to 5 minutes
When the cells come into contact with a fish or with human skin, they trigger a sort of dart in the tentacles, that releases a deadly venom. With enough contact, the poison can kill in just a few minutes by shocking the heart and paralyzing the lungs. People who survive these encounters are usually in a great deal of pain for, at least, weeks afterward.
Sea wasps live mainly off the north coast of Australia, and Aussie lifeguards have come up with ways to prevent getting stung.
Since the venom is triggered by chemicals in the outer layers of the sea wasps’ prey, as well as chemicals in human skin, Aussie swimmers often wear pantyhose and wetsuits on their arms and legs in sea wasp infested waters.
It may not be comfortable, but the extra attire makes the sea wasp a little less deadly.
September 2017 Correction: This post originally used the words venom and poison interchangeably. There’s a big difference between the two. The word poisonous is used to describe anything that supplies toxins via ingestion or skin to skin contact. Venom always refers to an active injection; for example, when a fangblenny or snake bites, it injects venom directly into the bite site.