S stonefish may sting

S stonefish may sting

Stonefish are considered one of the most venomous fish in the sea. Senior lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna, Dr. Janaka Ruben, said the venom is not only painful but, more dangerously, a big dose could be fatal to humans. He said it was important to get medical assistance as soon as possible if you get stung by a stonefish.

Stonefish is a bottom-dwelling fish, usually found in the shallow sea in the Indian and Pacific oceans. The fish live around corals or rocks at the shallow sea bottom. They are not attractive like other marine fish. They are stocky and have a large head, mouth, small eyes, and rough skin covered with wart-like lumps.

Stonefish (c) Devid P. Robinson, Ocean Image Bank

The stonefish has a spine on its back that is attached to a venom sac, and these stiff spines are strong and sharp enough even to pierce a rubber slipper. Since this well-camouflaged fish blends with its surroundings and rests on the bottom without moving, someone could easily step on it, Dr.Ruben said.

He said if someone is stung in the sea, immediately take the victim out of the water and keep the foot in warm water. One must get medical treatment as early as possible.

A few individual stonefish in the shallow sea near the Galle lighthouse in the Fort were removed, but be aware if you are stepping into the sea, warns Dr.Ruben.

When someone steps on a stonefish, the spine injects an amount of venom proportional to the amount of pressure applied to it. The stonefish is also able to extend its sharp, specialized spines as an additional defense mechanism.

Marine biologist and author of “The Field Guide to Reef Fishes of Sri Lanka,” Arjan Rajasuriya, says there are several species in the family Scorpaenidae, and all are venomous. This is a family of fish that includes venomous fish such as scorpionfishes, lionfishes, and stonefish. It is also possible that the victims were stung by Scorpaena sp., known as the Scorpion Fish, which is also a bottom dweller and a true stonefish species, Mr. Rajasuriya told the Sunday Times.

The stonefish are widely distributed but not found in large numbers as they are solitary. Unless your eye is trained to spot them, you will not notice them as they are highly camouflaged, and most people will swim over them without even noticing, Mr.Rajasuriya said. You notice it only when it moves to avoid you when you get too close to it, the expert added.

The lionfish is a more good-looking member of this same family and has proven to be a fatal attraction. Even Mr. Rajasuriya fell victim when his left-hand fingers got stung by a lionfish with six dorsal spines while he was doing studies in the 1970’s. “I nearly passed out from the excruciating pain; however, I recovered with painkillers,” he said.

Malaka Rodrigo-Window to Nature

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