Science

Mystery creatures bite 16-year-old feet into the water

Mystery creatures bite 16-year-old feet into the water”

Sam Kanizay, 16, was feeling sore after a grueling football match when he waded into the water in Brighton over the weekend.

On Monday, shocking images of his legs and feet were beamed around the world - leaving doctors struggling to explain what had caused the teen's gruesome injuries. The teenager was standing still, which may have added to the numbness.

Mr Kanizay took a net and a fresh piece of meat to the beach to capture the creatures he believes are responsible for his son's attack. He claims to have felt a numb, tingling sensation, but he chalked it up to the frigid water, telling Australian newspaper The Age, "I wasn't really thinking about being eaten".

Museums Victoria marine biologist Genefor Walker-Smith examined some of the creatures who bit Sam and found they were a scavenging crustacean known as lysianassid amphipods. Most amphipods are herbivores while others are omnivorous scavengers and "some non-parasitic ones are particularly fond of blood if available".

A popular theory was Kanizay was attacked by especially hungry sea lice, which are usually parasites of fish.

His father tried helping him wash his legs, but when blood kept pouring out of hundreds of pinhole bites, they rushed to the hospital.

Sea fleas are are about half-a-centimetre to one-centimetre long and tend to clean up the fish carcasses found on the sea floor. Had Kanizay been moving through the water, it's unlikely the amphipods would have been likely to stay attached to his skin.

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A teenager who went for a swim at a Melbourne beach and emerged with his feet covered in blood has stumped marine experts.

The crustaceans are related to shrimp and lobster and there are about 10,000 species of them, he said.

The veteran marine researcher said Kanizay's injury was much like a graze and he should not fear returning to the water.

Dr Walker-Smith told Fairfax he believed the bleeding wouldn't stop because of the anti-coagulant being released by the fleas to stop the blood from clotting, in the same way leeches behave.

"My first instinct was that I must have stepped on a rock", he said.

"Sand fleas only cause minor biting and itching", he said. When hosing their feet off, they noticed "tadpole-like creatures", a physical trait more consistent with sea lice.

"I think it's very rare", Reina admitted to the website, but he said Kanizay was likely chewed up so badly because he stood still for an extended period of time.



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