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Warning as couple encounter deadly Irukandji jellyfish off Australian coast

Marine biologist Lawrence Scheele has warned Aussies not to be 'negligent' when it comes to these creatures.

An Australian couple have captured incredibly rare images of a nearly invisible jellyfish whose sting inflicts "feelings of impending doom" and can be fatal.

Winged box jellyfish often only measure a few centimetres long and are almost invisible in the water, with Lawrence Scheele and his partner Kaspa Blewett lucky to not only spot one last week but also record the interaction near Magnetic Island — situated just 13 kilometres off the coast of Townsville.

"It's much easier to see them at night than in the day, you can spot them by their movements. But they're incredibly small and transparent, they don't have any colour. It's easy for people just to not notice them," the marine biologist and underwater photographer told Yahoo News Australia

The diver shines a light up to the tiny winged box jellyfish.
A winged box jellyfish sting can be fatal. Source: Supplied

Jellyfish stings result in infamous Irukandji syndrome

The jellyfish species is one of 16 which are known as Irukandji jellyfish with their sting causing Irukandji syndrome. It inflicts severe pain to victims, as well as symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, difficulty in breathing and cardiac complications. Victims also report feeling an overwhelming sense of anxiety.

"Most people report they don't feel anything until 20 minutes or two hours later, that's when the Irukandji syndrome kicks in... It's deadly," Scheele said. Medical assistance is required immediately and prompt intervention can treat patients, however, there has been two deaths in Australia recorded.

The winged box jellyfish's head and four tentacles shine against the dark ocean, with a camera helping to identify the creature.
This species of jellyfish measure only centimetres in length and are near-invisible in the water. Source: Supplied

Diver's friend stung by dangerous jellyfish

Scheele recalls diving with his friends in 2022 when one was unknowingly stung by a winged box jellyfish. It was only when she started to experience severe symptoms and was rushed to hospital that medical staff pieced together what had happened.

"She didn't notice at all. It was only she was at emergency and they examined her hand that they saw this slight sting on her hand. She hadn't felt a thing," he explained.

How to protect yourself in the water

Winged box jellyfish typically "hunt in shallow water where a lot of people swim" so being mindful of the risks is the best way to safeguard yourself while in the water.

"It's important that people cover up as much of their skin as possible, especially during the months of stinger season, because there's quite a bit of negligence... People just think they won't get me, it's just a jellyfish," Scheele said.

Stingers are typically over the warmer months between November and May, according to Surf Life Saving Queensland.

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