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, science and medicine.

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 scientific 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 heartbroken loved ones or even the dedicated Thais that years ago made this research 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.


Comments

  1. Dear Boxie,

    I read your article about royal jelly- a deadly new species. It is very good that you wrote it because I was looking for information about a new species of animal in Thailand.
    When you wrote that "mysterious origins", I thought that it wasn't. It is generally normal for Thai scientists to name their new species after someone in a royal family without even associated with that animal or plant. However, I would say that I quite did't get it why he chose the name of this queen who doesn't well known for people in my generation (less than 20). So, I tried to search for information by googling it in Thai for you so that you can write something more as you said that her info in English is limited. I only know that Sucharitakul, one of a royal family last name in Thialand, is also related to the late king rama the 9th and his queen. After I searched for it, I found that she is a daughter of lady Kimlai and Chao praya Sudhammontri, and that's why Phuping called her grandmother on many social media. I'm sorry that I can't find out much info about him. The queen dedicated her self to education of Thais (gave scholarships to student and even founded a school) and was a president of a medical school (Vajira). Moreover, he got stung by a box jellyfish somewhere close to one of the queen Indrasak sachi's palaces (Mrigadayavan Palace). I don't know why he didn't mention this in the paper which might make it more reasonable to choose the name rather than something personal.
    I hope my info would help you understand why Thai scientists choose a mysterious-origin scientific name.

    Cheers
    Reader

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    Replies
    1. Thank-you for this explanation. Glad to read that Mr Sucharitakul had no nepotistic intentions when naming Chironex indrasaksajiae Sucharitakul sp. after his grandmother. Searching a very long list of fauna and flora native to Thailand there was nothing obvious related to the Thai royal family. I note that Kitti's hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) is named after it's discoverer Thai zoologist Kitti Thonglongya. Fejervarya chiangmaiensis (Chiang Mai rain-pool frog) is named after its location. The Koh Tao Island caecilian (Ichthyophis kohtaoensis) is a species of amphibian native to Koh Tao. Limnonectes lauhachindai (Lauhachinda's fanged frog) is a species of frog that looks like it is named after its discoverer. The Chiromantis nongkhorensis (Nongkhor Asian treefrog, Nongkhor pigmy tree frog, Nong Khor bushfrog) is a species of frog named after its location. Birds, butterflies, plants, fungi and fish; there are thousands with nothing standing out with a Thai royal name. Anyway, thanks for the information about the Queen.

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    2. FYI
      There are numerous.
      i.e. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirikit#Title,_styles,_honours_and_awards
      and
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirindhorn

      please read under eponyms section

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    3. Thanks for the update. HRH Princess Sirindhorn is certainly active in academia, technology and conservation and indeed there are a number of species associated with her name according to Wikipedia. Is it common though for species to be named after Thai Royals? I think in this instance regarding this box jellyfish readers will make up their own minds.

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