Story by Lee Buurman.
The importance of understanding the blue ringed octopus is 3 fold. Firstly this little animal is recognised as one of the world’s most venomous marine animals. Secondly it s prevalent along our shores Thirdly over the last couple of summers there have been several bites that have lead to urgent medical aid in Busselton.
Where does this cute little animal reside – In the Pacific and Indian ocean region, in tidal rock pools, reefs and certainly under the Busselton Jetty although they spend most of time hiding in small crevices. Their diet is typically small crabs and shrimp but also fish if they can catch them.
What do they look like – despite their small size and docile nature they can still deliver a very venomous bite. They are not like the regular size occy as their average size 12 to 15cm. They can be recognised by their characteristic blue and black rings and yellowish skin but these colours darken dramatically and the blue rings become iridescent when agitated. Underneath their body where the mouth is they a horny beak is used the pierce through tough exoskeleton releasing its venom, into its prey. The venom paralysis its prey then rips away part of the shell with its beak and sucks out flesh from the crustacean
The Bite – For humans the bite could be tiny and often painless with victims not realizing they have been bitten until respiratory distress start to set in.
Generally the onset could include nausea, dizziness and respiratory arrest. This is because the major component of the toxin is a very toxic Tetrodotoxin which causes paralysis which the animal uses to capture its prey. This can affect us causing body paralysis (in particular the respiratory system) which then could cause respiratory arrest.
First Aid – How can we help – A pressure bandage on the wound and EAR, urgent medical aid where the patient would be put on a ventilator? However this all depends on the amount of injected toxin, size of person, health and so on.
Prevention – The Importance of Education especially understanding of the habitat & behaviour of these gorgeous marine animals. Do not pick them up or carry shells close to your body. EAR and Medical aid is vital if the is any thoughts of a bite.
Image provided by: https://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http://i.imgur.com/ki173Ph.jpg&imgrefurl=http://rebrn.com/re/blue-ringed-octopus-highly-venomous-on-hand-2471910/&docid=LunosPZ5KGoZSM&tbnid=PcgmdW-ZzJC5tM:&vet=1&w=600&h=800&bih=724&biw=1518&ved=0ahUKEwiw8bqZ7srQAhUBNY8KHWy1C20QMwhPKCgwKA&iact=mrc&uact=8