GRAPHIC WARNING: Sea creatures feast on teenager's feet

Tuesday, 08 Aug, 2017

Sam Kanizay emerged from a dip at a Melbourne beach on Saturday night with his legs covered in blood seeping from dozens of tiny wounds on his calves and feet.

The gory and freakish situation is now making worldwide headlines.

"But I realised that couldn't have been it, because it was evenly distributed over my whole ankle and foot".

While the Melbourne boy is in hospital and the incident remains a worry for Brighton beachgoers, Stevens was actually already mildly concerned about the issue.

UNSW Associate Professor, Alistair Poore, whose research covers ecology and evolution of marine organisms, believes sea lice were most likely responsible for the attack.

Thanks to his video, experts were able to confidently identify the creatures as lysianassid amphipods, a type of scavanger shrimp-like crustacean commonly known as "sea fleas". But scientists have long studied their affinity for flesh and ability to sniff it out in warm, cool, deep, and shallow waters around the world.

Enlarge / Sea fleas captured by Sam's father. He dropped a hunk of raw steak in the water, and taped what happened next: Tiny, mite-like creatures swarmed the meat.

"They are not there to eat us, but sometimes they might take a little bit, like mosquitoes and leeches and other things out there in the environment", he told AFP.

"Sam's a really positive kid and remains in the great spirits and when he got home, he said "look Dad, look what happened" and he was sort of anaesthetised by the cold water at that stage", he said.

"I wonder if it was just that night, just that spot, at that particular time", Mr Murray said. "I think as long as you're moving around, they're unlikely to attack you", he said.

And they are widespread in the ocean, found all over the globe: "They constitute the largest source of protein in the world's oceans in their early larval stages", the ADFG says. Some have wide-set, piercing incisors for ripping apart all kinds of bloody chow.

"Normally when you feel a sting you will naturally move away from the area or get out of the water but it's possible he didn't even know".

Sam Kanizay, 16, holding a jar with creatures in it speaks from a bed of a hospital where he is treated, in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

Initially, a number of reports referred to the culprits as "sea lice", a term that refers to more than 500 species of parasites that feed on fish.