Jellyfish stings are no joke. In the Philippines alone, 20-40 people die annually from box jellyfish stings, and each year 500,000 people are stung by jellyfish in the Chesapeake Bay area. Despite the high occurrence of stings, no one has ever seen what happens at the moment when a jellyfish stings another animal. That is, until now, reported Destin Sandlin, Aug. 17 on his YouTube show, ‘Smarter Every Day.’
Researchers at James Cook University in Australia have provided the first video documentation of multiple jellyfish stings in action. They have also captured images of the venom coming out of the stings. Researchers, along with the public, are quite excited about this! The video is going viral!
The Cook University researchers had wanted to capture this event for many years. However, because a jellyfish sting happens on such a miniscule level and because the action happens so quickly, it had been impossible to see the event with the naked eye alone. Using a microscope and high-speed camera at the same time to capture the event was necessary.
Yahoo News blog writer, Zain Meghji reported on Aug. 18 that it is still a bit fuzzy about what causes nematocysts to fire. Nematocysts are organelles that become rigid when they come into contact with something, spearing the thing they have come to contact with needles (that are flexible otherwise) which inject venom shortly after contact.
Researchers had to figure out how to make the nematocysts fire in order to get videos. In their labs, the researchers used a 9 volt battery in order to make the event occur. A tentacle was touched to the battery to make the show happen.
Just how quickly does a nematocyst fire? The answer is approximately 11 milliseconds. Watching the jellyfish fire off what looks to be tiny venom squirting needles might give you chills (or even as in this case, a tentacle from a sea anemone, since a jellyfish was not available). Nonetheless, it’s fascinating and you won’t be able to pry your eyes away from the screen.