The mystery flesh-eating bugs that were filmed devouring a steak, may not be the same bugs that feasted on a teenager at the weekend.
Experts are still divided about what attacked a teenager in shallow water and left him hospitalised with chronic, bleeding ankles.
Sam Kanizay, 16, stood in the ocean at Dendy Street beach in Brighton in Melbourne’s bayside to soothe his sore legs after playing football on Saturday.
Around 30 minutes later, he walked out covered in what his family said were tiny marine creatures which appeared to be eating his legs.
“When he got out, he described having sand on his legs, so he went back in the water,” his dad Jarrod Kanizay told AAP.
Mr Kanizay said by the time Sam returned to his shoes, his legs were covered in blood.
“They ate through Sam’s skin and made it bleed profusely,” he said.
When Mr Kanizay couldn’t stop the bleeding, he took his son to hospital, where staff were at a loss to explain what had happened.
Mr Kanizay returned to the beach on Sunday with a pool net full of raw meat to bait the creatures. He captured video of critters devouring the meat.
“I believe that these creatures are what ate Sam. I am trying to track down an expert to tell us what they are,” Mr Kanizay told The New Daily.
“What is really clear is these little things really love meat.”
But experts believe they are not the same crustacean that ate the skin off Sam’s ankles.
UNSW Associate Professor, Alistair Poore, whose research covers ecology and evolution of marine organisms, believes sea lice were most likely responsible for the attack.
“I think it’s the most likely culprit,” Dr Poore told The New Daily.
“They are small crustaceans that do bite into fish and into people, occasionally.”
But he said the critters eating the meat were not sea lice, and were most likely not responsible.
“The little things attracted to the meat are small things called amphipods, not what we would normally call sea lice.
“[The video is] intriguing, but I don’t think it solves the mystery. There are a lot of things attracted to dead meat in the ocean.”
Dr Poore said it was unusual to get “attacked to that level” by sea lice.
“He obviously got more bites than you’d normally get. What would explain having so many in one spot, I don’t know.
“They’re parasites of fish, just like a mosquito will bite us for blood.
“Obviously, they don’t normally eat humans. But they’d just take a bite of something big if they came past it.
“The sorts of animals that do it are always around to some degree.”
Sea lice are normally a few millimetres, or up to about one centimetre.
Marine expert Michael Brown told Channel Seven’s Sunrise program the critters could be “jellyfish larvae”.
“I’ve been doing this for coming on 20 years now and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Mr Kanizay said what was unusual about the injury was that the bleeding could not be staunched.
“There was a massive pool of blood on the floor (at the hospital).
“No one knows what the creatures are. They’ve called a number of people, whether it’s toxicity experts or marine exerts and other medics around Melbourne at least… (and) yep, no one (knows).”
Sam was given painkillers and antibiotics and had blood tests.
He has been released from Sandringham Hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
– with AAP