Flesh-eating bugs attacked Australian teens legs

Scientists believe the sea creatures that attacked an Australian teen over the weekend were small aquatic scavengers known as amphipods.

David Sims | Aug 09, 2017

   

Scientists believe the sea creatures that attacked an Australian teen over the weekend were small aquatic scavengers known as amphipods.

When Melbourne teenager, Sam Kanizay, went for a half hour swim at Dendy Street Beach in Brighton he came out of the water with his legs and feet bleeding from a series of mysterious puncture wounds.

To figure out what was behind the attack, Kanizay's family went back to the beach the next day. They soon found the culprits.

"I went out to the same distance and same area that Sam was in, and we loaded the net up with some bloodied meat, some bones, and after 15 minutes I came out of the water," said Sam's father, Jarrod Kanizay, according to ABC.net. "We caught thousands of little mite-type characters, we took them home in the Esky, and we were playing scientists for an hour thereafter, putting them in different dishes and feeding them different things."

Soon after the collection, marine biologists identified the bug-like creatures as lysianassid amphipods. The animals -- which are native to the area -- have chemo-receptors that allow them to detect chemicals in the water that are given off by decaying meat or fish. Once they find a carcass, they devour it in a large swarm.

However, as they feast on decaying flesh, amphipods almost never attack humans. Researchers believe they went after Sam because he disturbed a feeding group. This likely caused them to move off of a dead piece of meat and onto his leg, where he may have already been cut.

In addition, Sam may have also been attacked because he was standing still. Amphipods will typically leave a person alone if they are moving, since that means they are still alive.

Though Sam suffered numerous bites, he is in recovery and doing quite well. The bites may sting, but amphipods are not venomous and will leave no lasting damage. There was a lot of a blood after the attack, but scientists report that is likely due to an anti-coagulant chemical that the creatures release.

"They are very good at finding food," said Richard Reina, a researcher at Monash University's School of Biological Sciences, according to CBS News. "It looked really bad in the photo, his feet looked like they went through a mincer, but it's a superficial injury and more like a graze than anything else... I would expect and hope he will recover pretty quickly."

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