toliths, daily growth rings can beseen and individual animals aged.From this, we now know thatwhen food is plentiful, box jelly-fish can growth between 1-2 mma day and reach a maximum sizeof over 35cm across the bell.
occursfrom Exmouth on the west coastof Australia through northernAustralia to Gladstone on theeast. It is predominantly a nearshore animal, seldom found morethan a few kms offshore, al-though it is found around somecoastal islands such as MagneticIsland near Townsville. Theirpreferred habitat is calm shallowwater with a gently sloping sandybottom, however it is not re-stricted to these areas, being oftenfound in creeks or around rockyheadlands even when seas arerough.
can befound as solitary animals or inschools numbering in the hun-dreds of individuals. They areactive hunters, using their speedand sensory organs to locate andcapture prey. It is not unusual tosee large animals searching forfood at the edges of light beamscast on the water from jetty wharf lights.
is armed with one of the mostlethal venoms known, it still has abevy of predators. The majorspecies are marine turtles, whichappear to show little if any sideeffects to box jellyfish venom.Several species of fish are alsoknown to attack and feed on box jellyfish, but unlike the turtles,these predators feed predomi-nantly on the bell and not the ten-tacles.
The simple answer to thisquestion is that we just do notknow. We do know that thenumbers of stingers present fromyear to year can vary enormously,but we don’t know what causesthis. We also know that morepeople appeared to be stung by
in recent yearscompared to the past, but we alsoknow that there are more peopleswimming now then there weremany years ago. There is at pre-sent no evidence to suggest thatstingers are increasing in num-bers and it seems that their num-bers are, on the whole, quite sta-ble over several years, but canvary markedly from year to year.
Box jellyfish, like all jel-lyfish, have stinging cells callednematocysts present on the tenta-cles. These cells contain venomand a hollow shaft that everts(referred to as discharging) andpenetrates the prey or the victimwhen the tentacle comes in con-tact with it. Although small,these stinging cells number in thestart of the season (November),each polyp buds off a single babybox jellyfish, approximately 1.5mm in size, which makes its wayto the creek mouth and then alongthe sandy beaches. Here it feedsprimarily on small shrimp (
) when they are small,but switch its diet to includesmall bait fish as it matures. Oncefully mature, it starts the breed-ing cycle over again.
Unlike most animals, box jellyfish can undergo degrowth,that is, in times when food isscarce they shrink in size andthen regrow when food becomesavailable again. Because of this,the size of a jellyfish is not agood indication of its age. How-ever, the organs that box jellyfishuse for balance, statoliths, containgrowth rings. By sectioning sta-
GladstoneExmouthAustralian Distribution of
Statolith with daily growth ringsA discharged and non dischargedstinging cell or nematocyst
P a u l S u t h e r l a n d w w w . s u t h e r l a n d i m a g e s . c o m J a m i e S e y m o u r J a m i e S e y m o u r T e r e s a C a r r e t t e