|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Hello, Stephanie. Although my main field of interest lies in nutritional science, I am interested in many facets of science, especially biology - (including marine biology), which I find fascinating. I have spent some time in Australia where I learned a lot about marine life from specialists at marine aquariums. First off, let us establish that there isn't any one particular toxin emitted from cnidarians. In fact, about 3 dozen have so far been identified, all of which involve complex protein molecules. To complicate matters even more, there are about 10,000 species of Cnidaria, and of these, are divided into four different classes, some of which are not really jellyfish. For example, the Portugese man-o-war are Hydroids, while another class consist of sea anemones called Anthoza. Their toxic effect on humans can range from no effect at all, to paralysis and even death. The poisons are shot out of barb-like cells called nematocysts. Since the toxin consists of proteins, the first line of defense, assuming it isn't too serious requiring CPR, the barbs should carefully be pulled out, and one could apply meat tenderizer to the area which helps to break down the proteins, thus minimizing their painful effects. Other remedies include acetone, (found in some nail polish removers), or alcohol, (which is why beer is a popular folk remedy). Never rub fresh water, as this could further spread the toxin. Some specific toxins that have been identified are: cnidarian, phospholipase A2, and cytolysin. Also some isolated fractions of jellyfish toxin have been isolated including; thalassin, congestin, and hynotoxin. There are plenty of web sites dedicated to your query which you may further like to puruse. Hope this helped! Yours very truly, Peter Bosani. Reference: encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761562576/Cnidarians.html
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