Scientists at Museums Victoria have identified sea-creatures, captured by the father of the boy attacked on Brighton Beach, as lysianassid amphipods, a type of scavenging crustacean.
Marine biologist Genefor Walker-Smith, who examined a sample, collected by the family, under the microscope, said the creatures are naturally-occurring scavengers, which commonly bite but do not usually cause the kind of injuries seen in the boy.
“It was just unlucky. It’s possible he disturbed a feeding group but they are generally not out there waiting to attack like piranhas,” she said.
Walker-Smith said it was possible the amphipods contained an anti-coagulant like leeches, which accounted for the inability to stem the flowing blood and that the very cold water may be the reason the boy did not feel the bites.
The amphipods have no venomous properties and will not cause lasting damage.
Walker-Smith emphasised amphipods were a valuable part of the marine environment. “If we didn’t have them we would have a sea filled with dead and decaying fish.”
Amphipods are sometimes referred to as “sea fleas”. Media reports have described the attackers as “sea lice” but that term is usually used to refer to isopods, a different group of crustaceans.