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A teenager was left severely bloodied after dipping his legs into the sea at a Melbourne beach and emerging covered in meat-eating sea lice.
Sam Kazinay was taken to hospital after the incident at Dendy Street Beach in Brighton on Saturday, where doctors struggled to stem the bleeding from what looked to be hundreds of tiny pin-prick bites on his calves and feet.
He told 3AW: “I walked out and saw what I thought was sand covering my calf and shook it off, and by the time I’d walked across the sand about 20 metres to put my thongs on, I looked down and noticed I had blood all over my ankles.
“I couldn’t feel anything because the cold water basically numbed my legs, I felt what I thought was pins and needles.”
With doctors stumped as to what had caused his injuries, the 16-year-old’s father Jarrod Kanizay returned to the beach on Sunday where he caught a net of the mites and filmed what happened when he fed them pieces of steak.
The footage shows the intensity at which the creatures devoured the flesh – mirroring the appetite they demonstrated with 16-year-old Sam.
Kanizay revealed his experiment to hospital staff, telling The Age: “No one had seen anything like this before and they’re all pretty fascinated by it.”
Scientists have now identified the creatures as lysianassid amphipods, a scavenging crustacean.
Marine biologist Dr Genefor Walker-Smith told the Herald Sun: “It’s possible he disturbed a feeding group but they are generally not out there waiting to attack like piranhas.”
Associate professor at Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences Richard Reina said: “I suspect the reason why the wounds were so intense was because he was standing still for so long and his legs went numb.
“Normally when you feel a sting you will naturally move away from the area or get out of the water but it’s possible he didn’t even know. The general public should not be alarmed because this is a very rare case.”
Jeff Weir, the executive director of the Dolphin Research Institute, told ABC he had suffered a similar experience.
The marine biologist had been on a night dive taking pictures under a nearby pier when he found his forehead and cheeks were bleeding when he resurfaced.
Admitting Sam’s case was the worst he had ever seen, Weir added: “These are very important little critters that live in the water – just like garden slaters in the garden that clean up the breaking-down debris, these things are a really important part of the ecosystem.
“It’s a bit annoying for the young lad, he must have been there for quite a while and not realising he’s getting nipped away. It’s not life threatening, but it’s a great tale to tell.”