[ASC-media] Media Release: World's first Irukandji jellyfish babies born in captivity

Chloe Lucas chloe.lucas at crcreef.com
Tue Apr 6 08:49:28 EST 2004

CRC Reef Research Centre, James Cook University, 
Surf Life Saving Queensland

6 April 2004<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


World's first Irukandji jellyfish babies born in captivity


The first Irukandji jellyfish to be bred in captivity have been born in Townsville, Australia. 'Irukandji syndrome' is a painful and debilitating set of symptoms that has caused the deaths of at least two people on the Great Barrier Reef.  Up to seven species of jellyfish found in northern Australian waters are thought to be responsible for the syndrome, but only one, Carukia barnesi, is a proven culprit. 


According to CRC Reef researcher Ms Lisa-ann Gershwin, from James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, "Being able to breed Carukia barnesi jellyfish is a giant step forward for Irukandji research. Specimens raised in captivity will be shared with researchers to develop an anti-venom, study the jellyfish toxins for pharmaceutical benefits, and work on rapid diagnostic techniques for Irukandji stings."


Ms Heather Walling, a research officer at James Cook University, nurtured jellyfish caught by Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) lifeguards at Palm Cove near Cairns at the beginning of February. "Several of the jellyfish have spawned, and seem to have grown through a worm-like intermediate stage. They have now settled to become polyps," she said. "This is the first major hurdle. Hopefully they will survive the polyp stage and soon change into tiny jellyfish."


"This breakthrough could not have come at a better time," said Mr Peter Dawes, Operations Manager with Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ). "SLSQ has recently received funding for a Beach Safety Education vehicle which will bring all aspects of beach safety education to venues such as schools, community groups and local markets. We hope the vehicle will be equipped with a self-contained aquarium to display live Irukandji jellyfish."


"This is a great demonstration of the results that can be obtained with good cooperation between Surf Life Saving and researchers. This research will lead to greater community awareness and even safer seas and beaches," he said.


One of the biggest obstacles to developing an anti-venom has been the lack of a regular supply of specimens. Between 10,000 and 1,000,000 specimens will be needed to develop an anti-venom, but typical annual catches have yielded only 200 to 1,000 Irukandji jellyfish. A captive breeding program is key to progressing this research.


Photographs and video footage are available from Chloe Lucas at CRC Reef.


For more information:

Ms Lisa-ann Gershwin, CRC Reef, James Cook University and Australian Institute of Marine Science, 

mobile: 0438 105 358, lisa.gershwin at jcu.edu.au

Ms Heather Walling, James Cook University, 0407 676 754 heather.walling at jcu.edu.au

Mr Peter Dawes, Surf Life Saving Queensland, 07 3846 8000, mobile 0408 722 800, pdawes at lifesaving.com.au

Ms Chloe Lucas, Media Liaison CRC Reef, 07 4729 8450, mobile: 0408 884 521, chloe.lucas at crcreef.com




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