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But overfishing is not solely to blame. The nutrients from fertilizer runoff and sewage suck oxygen from the lower layers of the ocean, creating an environment in which fish struggle but jellyfish thrive. Since 2000, there's been such an increase in numbers of Australian jellyfish in the oxygen-depleted waters of the Gulf of Mexico that shrimpers have been forced to hang up their nets during the swarm season in the summer. In the nutrient-rich waters off the coast of Japan, where jellyfish can grow to the size of refrigerators, a nuclear power plant was forced to lower production in 2006 when a mass of the creatures clogged its cooling system.Climate change, too, is likely playing a role. As ocean temperatures rise, jellyfish are reproducing faster, and tropical species are beginning to extend their range. "It could be a big economic problem for countries like Australia," says Anthony Richardson, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland in Australia. If the deadly box jellyfish that plague the country's northern beaches migrate south to the Gold Coast, it could have huge implications for the region's multibillion-dollar tourism industry.Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1931659,00.html#ixzz1paq8qo29
The box jellyfish has been called "the world's most venomous creature," though only a few species in the class have been confirmed to be involved in human deaths and some species pose no serious threat. For example, the sting of Chiropsella bart only results in short-lived itching and mild pain. Each tentacle has about 500,000 cnidocytes, containing nematocysts, a harpoon-shaped microscopic mechanism that injects venom into the victim. There are many different kinds of nematocysts found in cubozoans. In Australia, the fatal envenomations are most often perpetrated by the largest species of this family of jellyfish Chironex fleckeri, owing to the high potency of the venom carried in their nematocysts.