Dangerous Creatures in the Water

On this page you have the dangerous water creatures in Cape York.

Of course, there are the big and obvious ones like sharks and the deadly saltwater crocodiles.

But apart from them, we also have some small marine creatures that you have probably heard about and may never have come across, but they are there and pose a smaller or bigger, but in a lot of cases a very real danger.

box jellyfish

Box Jellyfish
The most dangerous one of them all is box jellyfish - known as the most venomous animal in the world, that delivers stings that are known to be extremely painful. It is found in the tropical northern waters of Australia, including the waters of Cape York.


The other deadly jellyfish is irukandji - less painful and less venomous but still able to kill a human, and the tricky thing is that it is so small you can hardly see it. It comes through the stinger nets that protect you from box jellyfish.


Even less dangerous is blue-bottle jellyfish, but it's still able to give you a painful sting. While the two above are only found in the tropical northern waters of Australia, bluebottle is also found in the southern waters.

blue ringed octopus
By Angell Williams via Flickr.

Blue Ringed Octopus
Blue-ringed octopus is a small animal that usually hides under and between rocks and corals, and does not come to harrass you unless you threaten it. It only gets the blue rings when threatened - which is when it's about to try to poison you.

sea snake
By richard ling via Flickr.com

Sea Snakes
Yes, we have snakes not only on the land but also in the sea and the ocean water, and many of these so called sea snakes can be very, very poisonous. But the good thing is most of them are not aggressive. Many species are found in the tropical northern Australia.

lion fish

Fire Fish
Our ocean waters are also home to fire fish, aka lion fish - one of the world's most beautiful fish that is also a very dangerous one. They are found in coral reef and can even be aggressive.

stone fish

Stone Fish
Stone fish is another well known Australian dangerous creature, and it is an ugly one. It hides in the bottom of the sea and may first seem to be a rock, but step on it and it fires some toxin into your foot.

cone shells

Cone Shells
And finally some - cone shells - hard to believe - are also dangerous. Don't pick one up on the beach, not with bare hands anyway. If there is a little guy in there, it will poke out its little harpoon and give you a dose of poison.

Cone Shells

Another thing you should not pick up is cone shells.

They are pretty, often quite large, and they can be laying on beaches or in tidal rock pools, and with their colours and patterns they are attractive and tempting to pick up.

Don't pick up a cone shaped shell - they are poisonous.

The snail inside the shell uses poison for hunting and will also use it for self defence.

The poison is powerful enough to kill a human, and children at at a higher risk because of their small body size.
   cone shell

Where Are They Found?

There are about 600 species of cone shells world wide, and they are found in many tropical and subtropical but also temperate waters in Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Ocean.

About 160 species are known to be found in Australia, and about 130 of them are found in Queensland - they are most abundant in the tropics.

They typically live in coral reef, tidal flats and sandy bottoms, where they hide among the rocks or corals, or bury themselves in the sand.

What Do They Look Like?

The cone shaped shells can vary a lot in pattern and colour, depending on the species.

Size also varies, the tropical ones are larger (up to 23cm). The larger ones are generally the more dangerous species.

Inside the shell lives a snail.

If you see the snail in the action (which is under the water), it has a foot similar to a garden snail, and it moves in a similar way.

In the head end, there is a little snout sticking out.

That's the dangerous tooth, however it doesn't mean that the rest of the shell is ok to touch. Its defence reaches everywhere on the shell's surface.

Sting and Venom

The snails in cone shells eat small marine worms, mollusks, fish and even other cone snails.

As they hunt, mainly during the night, and sense a prey close to them, they shoot a poisonous barb (a modified tooth, aka dart or harpoon) out of their snout.

You can imagine something as slow as a snail trying to kill a fast moving fish!

The barb needs to be fast, the poison needs to be strong.

It paralyses the prey so the snail has the time to get to it and eat it.

It is strong enough that it also paralyses a human, and is used in self defence when you go touching it.

The exact venom can vary between different species, but commonly it is a kind of neurotoxin, with the symptoms and treatment the same as those of a blue ringed octopus.
It is particularly the larger, tropical (fish eating) cone shells that are deadly.

The most dangerous cone shells are 
Conus geographus, Conus tulipa and Conus striatus, but also Conus pennaceus, Conus textile, Conus aulicus, Conus magus and Conus marmoreus.

The mollusk and worm eating ones are obviously not quite as challenged catching and so have no need of so strong

The larger ones are also the ones with stronger harpoons that penetrate skin, gloves, and wetsuits.

Symptoms include numbness, swelling and local pain, weakness, nausea, and vision and breathing complications, that can develop to paralysis and respiratory failure.


The best thing is of course prevention - don't pick one up.

Even if you find a dead looking one on the beach, there may still be a snail in there that is alive.

But if you do get stung - here is what to do.

Seek medical assistance.

While waiting:

* Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage in the same way as in the case of a snake bite. It is smart to have one in your first aid kit anyway.

* Provide CPR - cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

There is no antivenom, but exactly like with the bite of a blue ringed octopus, the victim's body finally metabolises the poison.

Meanwhile the victim does need medical help or the bite can be fatal.

There are 15 reported deaths from cone shells.

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