Poison of the Sea – Jellyfish and Pufferfish

The ocean is home to many beautiful and amazing creatures. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to swim beneath its tranquil waters and gaze at them up close? But just as the ocean’s waters are not forever tranquil, neither are its inhabitants always the kind you want to be near. They may be spectacular to look at, but the bite or touch of many of them can be deadly.

box jellyfish at Bakoven Rock, wikimedia commons

Jellyfish with their long, flowing tentacles and almost transparent bodies are beautiful. Surely they are harmless. They have no brain, heart, bones, or eyes, and their bodies are 95% water. How in the world could they be a danger to people? Don’t be deceived. If you are stung by a jellyfish it can be extremely painful, even deadly.

The box jellyfish is not a creature you want to bump into when you are in its ocean home. These deadly animals have an easy time hunting. Actually, they don’t really don’t hunt; they just hang around and wait for prey to bump into their tentacles. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about a box jellyfish coming after you, but you don’t want to bump into one. The poison they inject is so strong that your chances of survival are very slim.

A jellyfish has never stung me, but from what I’ve read and heard, the sting from a box jellyfish is so excruciatingly painful that you will be lucky to make it back to shore if one stings you while you are swimming in the ocean. Chances are you will go into shock and drown. If you do make it back to shore, you will likely go into cardiac arrest. If you are one of the few lucky ones that survive their severe sting, necrosis will probably set in.  That means it will eat the skin away from around the area you were stung.

girl writing, etc.usf.edu

Writing Prompts
How could you use this in your fiction? What if the intended victim were thrown into an area of ocean that box jellyfish were known to inhabit?  His chances of escape would be very slim indeed.

Or maybe your murderer secretly raises box jellyfish for when he has need of them to do away with people. What kind of person would he be, and why would he have the need to do away with people so often that he would raise these venomous creatures?

spotted pufferfish, wikimedia commons

Pufferfish are also known as swellfish or balloonfish, so it isn’t really hard to figure out how they got their name. These fish will swallow huge amounts of air or water and inflate themselves to escape predators. Even if a predator is lucky enough to snag a pufferfish, he won’t feel lucky for very long; he’ll be dead. Tetrodotoxin is the lethal substance in pufferfish. This substance is 1200 times more poisonous than cyanide, so you can imagine the fish that eats one will die a very painful death.

There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill thirty humans. This toxin is also supposed to give the fish a foul taste, so why anyone would want to dine on one is beyond me. Yet the meat of the pufferfish, called fugu, is considered a delicacy in Japan. Few chefs know how to properly cut and prepare it so that the one eating it doesn’t die. It is also extremely expensive. Fish is one of my favorite foods, but no matter how much training the chef has had in properly preparing fugu or how long he has been fixing it, I don’t believe I want to try any of this delicacy.

Recommended Article: Poison of the Sea – Scorpionfish and Stingrays

girl writing, etc.usf.edu

Writing Prompts
Your mind should already be racing with possibilities of how to use the pufferfish in your writing. A chef that is famous for his delicious fugu disappears. One day, he reappears with no explanation of where he has been. But no one can tell he is an imposter. Who took him and why did they send someone else back in his place?

Or the chef could be trained to prepare fugu as part of being a trained assassin. He uses food instead of fists, guns, or knives to kill his victims.

What other ideas for stories can you come up with? Please feel free to share them. 🙂

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