KUALA LUMPUR: The sting from the box jellyfish can be very painful or even fatal when the animal comes in contact with human skin.
It is particularly dangerous when looking for food.
While hunting, the box jellyfish is known to extend its tentacles, which increases the chances of coming into contact with it.
A marine scientist, who declined to be named, said a box jellyfish has 500,000 stinging cells on each tentacle. It has 36 tentacles and it is the only species with the ability to stretch its tentacles when hunting.
He said sightings of the box jellyfish and related cases of fatalities have been long been recorded in Sabah but little has been studied about the jellyfish attacks.
At the moment, the Chronex yamaguchii and Chironex indrasaksajiae, two deadly species, are suspected to be the culprits.
The first known jellyfish attack in Sabah was recorded off Labuan in 1945. But in recent years, there have been a few cases of tourists reported to be stung by jellyfish.
There was a death at Sapi Island in 2006 and another off Kota Belud in 2013.
“However, the species of the killer jellyfish was not ascertained,” he said.
Although there was suspicion it could be Chironex yamaguchii, which was native to the Sabah waters but was believed to have drifted from the Philippines, there is no concrete evidence, he added.