Teen nearly dies after collecting seashell with blue-ringed octopus inside

FILE - An 18-year-old from Australia was bitten by a poisonous blue-ringed octopus while collecting shells for his young niece at Shoalwater Beach on Dec. 3, 2023. Getty Images via Khaichuin Sim

Normally, collecting seashells is seen as a pretty low-risk activity, but the scavenge became almost deadly for one Australian who accidentally pocketed a dangerous hitchhiker.

On Sunday, 18-year-old Jacob Eggington was combing Shoalwater Beach, some 50 kilometres from the city of Perth, for shells to gift his young niece. As he stuffed them into his pockets, Eggington was unaware that one shell had a blue-ringed octopus hiding inside, 7News Perth reported.

When Eggington retrieved the shell from his pocket to give it to his niece, the blue-ringed octopus — which are typically four centimetres to six centimetres long — emerged from where it had been hiding in the shell and bit his leg.

Blue-ringed octopi carry a deadly poison called tetrodotoxin. The poison is strong and fast-acting. When bitten by a blue-ringed octopus, one’s voluntary muscles become paralyzed, though the victim remains fully conscious. In humans, the reaction can be fatal, as death is usually triggered by a lack of oxygen.

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There is no antidote for tetrodotoxin. The poison can become fatal within half an hour.

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“As soon as he saw the octopus, he yelled really loud. I grabbed the baby,” Eggington’s brother, Joshua, told 7News.

Joshua said Eggington was bitten only “seconds” before handing the shell to his young niece.

“That’s probably one of the more traumatic thoughts to think — what could have happened,” Joshua continued. “He did get bit, but he also probably saved one of his nieces’ or nephews’ lives.”

Eggington said the bite to his leg itself was painless.

He was immediately stretchered off the beach and brought to hospital, where he was treated by doctors for six hours.

The medical staff was able to save his life.

Blue-ringed octopi live in the Pacific and Indian oceans and are often spotted on Perth beaches, but beachgoers are encouraged to leave them alone. Experts recommend people wear beach shoes or protective footwear when entering the surf to avoid contact with the tiny octopi.

Blue-ringed octopi are not usually aggressive with humans, and typically attack only when provoked.

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