Aussie boy's innocent beach mistake with deadly blue-ringed octopus

The marine creature's venom is known to be 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide on humans.

A young boy's innocent mistake could have cost him his life with parents now being warned not to pick up shells on beaches.

Benaiah Tolley, 9, was snorkelling with his father at Point Peron in Western Australia last week and had been collecting shells in the water when suddenly out crawled a deadly blue-ringed octopus onto their towel.

"He was carrying it around in his hand for, he reckons, about 20 minutes while we were in the water. Then we got out to show the girls, my wife and my daughter [who were on the sand]," Benaiah's father Jason Trolley told Yahoo News Australia.

"We put the shells on a towel and went back into the water. My daughter, who's eleven, was sunbathing and looked down and saw the octopus crawling out of the shell toward her."

Blue-ringed octopus climbing out of shell onto colourful towel at beach.
The boy had been collecting shells when a blue-ringed octopus crawled out of one and onto their towel. Source: Jason Trolley

One of the most venomous creatures on the planet

The venom of a blue-ringed octopus — called tetrodotoxin — is known to be 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide on humans — capable of killing up to 26 adult humans. According to The Australian Museum, the species uses "extremely powerful venom" to kill its prey including crabs and small fish.

A single bite from a blue-ringed octopus is enough to paralyse a human within minutes and can often lead to death, so people are advised to stay clear at all costs.

Jason said his daughter, 11, "came screaming down the beach" telling them to get out of the water. "I thought she'd seen a shark or something," he said.

"So we hopped out and she told us an octopus was coming out of the shell, and then my son, who'd been holding it, started freaking out."

Aussies warned not to collect seashells

Thankfully, no one was injured thanks to the kids' mum, a nurse, who "calmed the situation down". Jason said his son was "very lucky" nothing came of the situation, but took to Facebook to warn others.

"Went snorkelling with the boy and he collected a shell and it had this little guy in it," he posted in a WA-based group. He said they "are not going to collect any more shells" after their close call.

"All the more reason to take nothing but photos! Glad everyone is ok," one person said in response. "I never collect for this reason and also they're homes for many little critters," another said.

Beach and rocks at Point Peron in WA
The family was snorkelling at Point Peron in Western Australia. Source: Google Images

Expert warning to beachgoers

The incident follows several sightings at beaches across Australia this summer. Last month, a Perth teenager was rushed to hospital after pocketing a shell for his niece, but he hadn't realised a tiny critter was inside it and he was bitten.

In November, a Sydney toddler had one "climbing' on his foot while in the rock pool at Fairlight. And in September, after a sighting at a rock pool in Bronte, Sydney, a spokesperson for Surf Life Saving NSW urged people to "be careful when exploring rock pools".

"Blue-ringed octopuses are small and well camouflaged but they have enough venom to kill 26 adults within minutes," he warned.

Meanwhile, a viral video last year showed one being handled by an unwitting Aussie. Ian Tibbetts, Associate Professor at the University of Queensland told Yahoo News Australia the social media trend showing people handle these creatures is "alarming stupidity".

"Someone might die doing this," he warned at the time.

Surf Life Saving NSW warned anyone bitten by a blue-ringed octopus to call Triple-0 immediately and apply a pressure bandage to the site. "If breathing difficulties and paralysis occur, CPR may be necessary until help arrives," the spokesperson told Yahoo.

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