Sea Fleas Dine on Aussie Teen’s Legs

Tiny marine creatures — each measuring a fraction of an inch in length — gnawed a teenager’s legs bloody during a seaside dip in Melbourne, Australia, and experts identified a type of scavenging crustacean as the culprit.

On Saturday (Aug. 5), a 16-year-old teen emerged from the water at Melbourne’s Brighton Beach to find blood pouring down his shins and ankles from what appeared to be hundreds of needle-like punctures.

The boy’s father later returned to the beach to capture some of the tiny animals that had bitten his son for identification purposes. Genefor Walker-Smith, a marine biologist with the Museums Victoria in Melbourne, examined the creatures and identified the mystery chewers as amphipods — a type of minuscule shrimp-like crustacean — in the Lysianssidae family.

Amphipods in this group are mostly scavengers, playing an important part in marine food webs by eating dead and decaying plants and animals. However, some amphipods are active predators, and though tiny, they would certainly be capable of piercing human flesh with their mandibles. In this case they may have mistaken the boy’s legs as fish and had a meal.

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