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maeng kaphrun (แมงกะพรุน)

Thai for jellyfish’, also referred to as ‘sea jelly’ or simply ‘jelly’, of which there are around 2,000 varieties, in appearance often transparent or translucent and with stinging tentacles, used for protection and to catch prey. Each of its tentacles is covered with stinging cells, i.e. harpoon-shaped needles known as cnidocytes, that are released upon contact and inject their venom into the victim. Since this happens automatically, even beached and dying jellyfish, or a floating tentacle that has been detached from the jellyfish, can still sting when touched. Though usually marine, a few species are also found in freshwater, e.g. Craspedacusta sowerbyi. Jellyfish occur in every ocean, from the deep sea to the surface and as such are also found in the littoral zone of coastal areas, where they may pose a hazard to swimming humans. Whilst less than 5% of all known jellyfish are considered harmful to humans, the sting of some species is extremely painful and distressing, and some may cause adverse reactions that lead to life threatening situations, such as anaphylactic shock or cardiac arrest, if not drowning. Dangerous species include the notorious box jellyfish, a deadly species that includes the genus Chironex fleckeri, the most lethal jellyfish in the world. Although rare, box jellyfish do occur in Thailand's southern coastal waters, both in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, where they are known to have caused some deaths, reportedly near Koh Samui and Koh Phangan in Surat Thani province, near Koh Lanta in Krabi province, and near Cha-am in Phetchaburi province. Vinegar is regarded as a good first-aid solution to reduce the venomous effects from most jellyfish stings, though it will not alleviate the pain and sometimes additional medical attention may be required to counter any venom already discharged into the bloodstream. In natural conditions, jellyfish float with the currents and sometimes travel in large groups. In addition, many are so transparent or small that they are nearly invisible. The only prevention for swimmers and divers from being stung would be to wear a full body wet suit or, as is done at some beaches, use large nets that demarcate a certain swimming area. Jellyfish are an important food source for many a sea turtle, such as the Leatherback (fig.), who have specially adapted mouths that on the inside are covered in dozens of spikes, called papillae, from their teeth all the way down to their esophagus and into their gut, in order to trap their prey and keep it from coming out, as well as to protect them from sea jelly venom. As a soft-bodied animal or invertebrate, a jellyfish carries the Thai prefix maeng in its name. See also WILDLIFE PICTURES and THEMATIC STREET LIGHT.