Morbakka fenneri in Lake Macquarie

In May 2018, Lake Macquarie City Council was alerted to the discovery of a Morbakka fenneri jellyfish in southern Lake Macquarie, near the boundary of the Lake Macquarie and Central Coast Local Government Areas. The discovery was made by two marine researchers from the Australian Museum who were conducting a study on unrelated jellyfish species.

The Morbakka jellyfish is a type of Irukandji jellyfish. It is more common around Moreton Bay but has been found between Port Douglas and Sydney. It is usually found in isolation rather than swarms.

While a sting from the Morbakka fenneri can cause Irukandji syndrome, it is a different jellyfish to the smaller and more venomous species that inhabits the northern waters of Australia. Symptoms of a Morbakka sting are typically mild but will sometimes require hospitalisation.

What does Morbakka fenneri look like?

It has a transparent box-shaped bell with one tentacle in each corner. The bell can be six to 18 centimetres wide with four ribbon-shaped tentacles up to one metre long.

What are the symptoms of a Morbakka sting?

The sting of a Morbakka jellyfish can cause Irukandji syndrome – a collection of symptoms that include:

How should a Morbakka sting be treated?

Irukandji syndrome is potentially serious so it is recommended that you, or someone with you, immediately call 000 in the event of a sting.

A sting should be ideally doused liberally with vinegar (any variety), which will neutralise the sting and prevent further envenomation. Applying hot or cold water on the sting site is not recommended, as this can exacerbate the severity of the sting. An ice pack can be used to provide pain relief after the area has been treated with vinegar.

Lower back pain is characteristic of the syndrome and often signals the onset of more severe symptoms.

Seeking medical assistance is advised, even if symptoms appear to be mild.

For more information, see the related resources on this page.

Image © Merrick Ekins, Queensland Museum

Page last updated: 24 May 2018