(CNN)A visit to a beach turned into a horror movie for a Melbourne, Australia, teen. The exact cause is a bit of a mystery, but tiny sea crustaceans may be to blame.
After playing soccer with his friends, Sam Kanizay, 16, dipped his lower legs and feet into the familiar water of Brighton’s Dendy Street Beach on Saturday to soothe his aching muscles, according to the Washington Post. What happened next was unexpected.
“I walked out of the water, saw what I thought was sand covering my ankles below my calf, shook it off quite violently, and it came off,” he told CNN affiliate Seven Network Australia. But what he shook from his legs wasn’t sand.
Jarrod Kanizay, Sam’s father, told the Post that when his son lifted his feet from the water, he saw blood. Lots of blood.
“He hobbled home pretty quickly. He rang me, actually, from outside,” Jarrod Kanizay told the Post. “He said, ‘Dad, you better come down outside.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Just come down!’ “
They discovered thousands of tiny bites on the teen’s legs, almost as if he had been pricked with a pin repeatedly.
“We thought we better clean off this bit of blood and then realized it wasn’t washing away,” Jane Kanizay, Sam’s mother, told Seven Network News.
“There was no stopping the bleeding,” his father told the Washington Post. “We just had to get him to hospital.”
At the local hospital, doctors attempted to stem the flow of blood, but it continued to run from the many pinhole-size bites on Sam’s feet and legs.
Sam said his pain was “up to an eight out of 10,” his father told the Post, adding that hospital staff were baffled by his injury.
Investigating on his own, Jarrod Kanizay put on two wetsuits, returned to where his son had soaked his feet and used some raw meat to lure the unknown pests into a pool net. He collected thousands of the mites, each about 2 millimeters long, according to the Post.
Later, he uploaded a video to YouTube of what he believes is the culprit feasting on chunks of raw meat he provided.
“On these bits of meat, they’ve sucked the blood out of that, and they remain attached to the flesh of that meat,” Jarrod Kanizay told Seven Network Australia.
The bleeding wouldn’t stop because of the anticoagulant being released by the crustaceans, according to a Facebook post by Museums Victoria. The organization’s marine biologist Genefor Walker-Smith examined samples captured by Kanizay and concluded that the likely culprits were “lysianassid amphipods, a type of scavenging crustacean.”
“Amphipods are sometimes referred to as ‘sea fleas,’ ” according to the post. “Media reports have described the attackers as ‘sea lice’ but that term is usually used to refer to isopods, a different group of crustaceans.”
Amphipods are “naturally-occurring scavengers” known to bite. However, they do not usually cause these kind of injuries, the post said.
It’s also possible they “contained an anti-coagulant, which would account for the inability to stop the flowing blood and that the very cold water may be the reason Sam didn’t feel the bites.”
Because they have no venomous properties, the damage will not be lasting; Sam will recover, according to the post.
In a Facebook post, Richard Reina, an associate professor at Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences in Australia, refers to “sea lice” as the cause of Sam’s injuries.
“No open wound as far as I know, but it happened because he stood still in the water for a long time,” wrote Reina, who suggested that Sam didn’t realize the creatures were chewing on his feet and legs.
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“It’s a bit like if you allowed hundreds of mosquitoes to keep feeding on your arm for half an hour — you’d get an extreme reaction then too, but it’s not something that people normally do,” Reina wrote. He added that people should not be so concerned.
“There’s no need to stay out of the water,” Reina wrote.