Its not just the sea lice other flesh-eating sea creatures lurk in the deep

Carnivorous amphipods feasted on the legs of one unlucky Australian teenager, but they are not the only watery beasts with a taste for human flesh. Which ones should we really be afraid of?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, some mystery lice chow down on a boys legs in Australia. Sam Kanizay had been paddling at a Melbourne beach. Half an hour later, the 16-year-old reeled when the sand he thought was covering his legs turned out to be eating his flesh, leading to unstoppable bleeding.

Doctors were at a loss to explain the gory encounter so Kanizay took some raw meat to the beach and dunked it in a net. When he pulled out the bait and placed it in a container, he filmed hundreds of tiny lice feasting on it. The footage has been churning stomachs everywhere since. But what were the creatures? And which other beasts with a taste for human flesh lurk beneath the waves? Here follows a selection, from the familiar to the barely visible and the actually not that scary at all.

The sea lice that left Kanizay bloodied were later found to be amphipods. Photograph: AAP/Jarrod Kanizay


The Melbourne leg munchers had been described as sea lice but, under a microscope, marine biologist Genefor Walker-Smith found that Kanizay had been the unlucky lunch for scavenging crustaceans called amphipods. They occur in pretty much any aquatic environment and serve a vital role in eating dead stuff. Walker-Smith said they might also have contained an anticoagulant, which exacerbated the bleeding. However, they do not usually prey on children. It was just unlucky. Its possible he disturbed a feeding group but they are generally not out there waiting to attack like piranhas, she told reporters.


Did someone say piranha? The razor-toothed fish can blame Theodore Roosevelt for the bad PR. The US president recounted in his 1914 book Through the Brazilian Wilderness the spectacle of piranhas stripping a cows carcass in minutes. He described the fish as the embodiment of evil ferocity. It turned out his guides had corralled the animals for days, starving them. But fear has stalked the Amazon for a century, leaving scientists to point out that attacks on humans are extremely rare. When Brazilian media reported in 2015 that a six-year-old girl had been eaten after the canoe she was travelling in capsized, her family pointed out that she may have drowned before the fish stripped all the flesh from her legs.

There were no reported turtle attacks, but the animals do eat meat. Photograph: Alamy


The Daily Star reported last year that flesh-eating turtles as big as dinner plates were coming over here from Florida to eat our children. The vile beasts are set to swim up the countrys rivers, canals and into our lakes and seas as temperatures sizzle, the paper warned. And the dangerous snapping creatures lurk underwater and wait to devour our skin even that of young kids with their razor-sharp teeth. There were no reports of turtle attacks but some species of the animal do have a taste for flesh, albeit of the dead variety. In the 1980s, the Indian government released turtles into the Ganges to clear up partially cremated corpses in the sacred river.

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