Related StoryA fellow diver had collected an empty moon snail shell during a dive. Although the shell's normal inhabitant had moved on, we didn't realize that a juvenile Giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) had taken up residence in its stead.
Within a few minutes I felt a sharp pinch on the back of my left hand. The octopus had beaked me! I was bitten twice during the walk back to the water to release it. I was surprised by how much my hand bled from what seemed to be a small puncture wound. I rinsed the wound off in the salt water and continued to take pictures of the octopus where it had settled down.
My hand became infected and the bite developed into a lesion about three days later. The lesion (location of bite) was concave and encircled by a raised erythematic zone. The tissue around the lesion became discolored (black-green) about nine days later. The injury was painful, sensitive to touch, and itchy for over a month.
The lesion site took over a month to heal. Symptoms of pain, sensitivity to touch and itching began to appreciably diminish approximately three months later with minor flare ups still presenting four to five months after the incident (usually after exercise or early in the morning). Six months later a small tissue nodule still remains at the lesion site.
CommentsThis incident is an excellent reminder of why it is so important to not handle marine life, especially without protection. Although Giant Pacific octopus bites are rare and generally not considered toxic, all octopuses have some varying degree of venom1. Bites from animals of the class Cephalopoda have been reported to cause ulcerous wounds2. The lesion on this diver's hand appears to have progressed to an ulcerous lesion.
It is recommended that any penetrating injury sustained in a marine environment be cleaned thoroughly and medically evaluated. An infection can appear within hours to several weeks following injury and therefore should be monitored for signs of swelling, redness, pain and heat (elevated warmth of the infected area). The diver continued to dive that night and for the next two days. It is recommended that divers not dive with open wounds since bacteria can continue to be introduced, compromising healing and increasing chances of an infection.
Divers should feel comfortable contacting DAN for advice on marine animal bites and injuries. It is important to note that divers should try to provide images of wounds when possible since this can help DAN medical staff evaluate the injury and provide better care. It is important that divers appreciate the risks of interacting with marine life. Handling marine animals can result in bites or more serious injury and should be avoided.
References1. Fry BG, Roelants JA. Tentacles of venom: toxic protein convergence in the kingdom animalia. J Mol Evol. 2009; 68(4):311-21.
2. Aigner BA, Ollert M, Seifert F, Ring J, Plotz SG. Pseduomonas oryzihabitans cutaneous ulceration from Octopus vugaris bite. Arch Dermatol. 2011;147(8):963-66.
~by Payal Razdan