Royal Jelly - A Deadly New Species

Finally, Thailand's deadly species of Chironex-type box jellyfish has a name. Chironex indrasaksajiae Sucharitakul sp.. A scientific paper published in 2017 describes this highly venomous species based on samples taken from the Gulf of Thailand. It's unclear as to whether the equally dangerous species inhabiting the Andaman Sea is the same type of box jellyfish.  

With all due respect, why this most venomous of species responsible for untold deaths was named by the Thais after a Queen Consort from the 1920s is a mystery. As far as can be gathered, Princess Indrasakdi Sachi or formally HM Queen Indrasakdi Sachi née Miss Praphai Sucharitakulhad no association whatsoever with box jellyfish let alone anything related to marine animals.

To quote Wikipedia: "She became queen because of her pregnancy, making the King Vajiravudh extremely happy with a much anticipated heir. It was never to be, as the queen miscarried 2 or 3 times during her queenship. She was later demoted to a rank of Princess Consort." Other than this there doesn't seem to be much available English language information about her. 

Chironex indrasaksajiae Sucharitakul sp.

In this day and age, these scientific descriptors are commonly named after key contributors to the discovery or identification of the species, its location, the animal's appearance or behaviour, and at times after victims of deadly species. 

Malo kingi, a species of Irukandji found in Australia, was for example named after Robert King who tragically died after being stung by this 10mm box jellyfish and Chironex fleckeri was named in honour of its discoverer Australian toxicologist Dr Hugo Flecker.

Even as recently as this week, a new species of orangutan from Sumatra, Indonesia was officially named Pongo tapanuliensis in a just-published study after the area of Tapanuli in which it lives.

Yes it's all a moot point. But it seems as though the leading author of the paper, PhD student Phuping Sucharitakul from Chiang Mai University and Auckland University, shares the same paternal name of the Queen/Princess. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Here is the opening line in the paper's Acknowledgement: "The first author is grateful for Queen Consort Indrasaksaji's infinite and gracious kindness to the Sucharitakul family."

Max Moudir 5 years-old: Sadly killed by a Thai box jellyfish

Perhaps out of respect for the victims and their loved ones or the Thais that made this happen, naming the Thai Chironex after victims including Sean Tyrrell, 11 year-old Moa Bergman, 5 year-old Max Moudir, Thies Saskia, Chayanun Surin and many others, or even Thailand's scientists and doctors responsible for bringing this species of box jellyfish out of obscurity and into the world's spotlight would have been more appropriate and dignified.

Nevertheless, the species has now been identified and while similar to the other two Chironex species found in Australia and Japan/Philippines, the Gulf of Thailand species has a few slight differences. 

While nothing is yet known about the toxicity of the venom as no studies have been undertaken, Chironex indrasaksajiae Sucharitakul was noted in the study as being smaller than Chironex fleckeri at a known height of 170mm while having less tentacles (12 per pedalium compared to 15) and having a different 'bulbous shaped' pedalial canal knee bend.

Chironex indrasaksajiae S
ucharitakul sp. is at best named with short-sightedness. There are many mysteries still waiting to be discovered in Thailand's seas, including other species of box jellyfish, and hopefully with all due respect once fully examined and identified these new species are given names with less mysterious origins.


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