Poison of the Sea – Scorpionfish & Stingrays

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.

camouflaged Caribbean spotted scorpionfish, wikimedia commons

There are more than 200 species of scorpionfish, and every one of them is poisonous.  This attractive and unusual fish is kept by many people in their home aquariums, but I don’t think that I would want one.  Their true color is brown or reddish-brown, but they have the ability to camouflage themselves and blend in with their surroundings.  The algae and parasitic growth that covers them help their ability to blend in a great deal.

They have a large head, a big mouth, and are about four – eight inches long.  Their small body is covered with a great number of spines.  The spines are what you need to watch out for.

scorpionfish, wikimedia commons

Just how poisonous are they?  For the person unfortunate enough to be stung, the reaction to their venom is instant.  He may lose consciousness because of the pain and convulsions.  And there will be a lot of swelling.  If the victim happens to be in the water when stung, he could drown when he is no longer able to move his limbs.  The pain is supposed to be excruciating.

If the one that is stung survives, recovery is possible, but it is slow and painful.  And a scar would likely be left behind as a reminder of what had happened.

The species of this family that people keep in aquariums—the stonefish—are among the most dangerous and deadly.  The spines of the stonefish have been known to penetrate flippers, tennis shoes, and gloves.  Why would someone have one of these fish in their aquarium? Scorpionfish are also kept in home aquariums.
Venomous Beauties: A Look at Scorpionfishes in the Home Aquarium

Writing Prompt:
What if? What if scorpionfish developed the ability to live on land while keeping their ability to blend in with the surroundings? How dangerous would life become?

Stingrays don’t really look like fish. Their bodies are flat and wide, up to 6.5 feet long, and they can weigh up to 800 pounds. Their long tails are what you need to watch out for. Its venom is used to protect it from predators, but it does have other uses too. It was once used by Greek dentists as an anesthetic on their patients.

Southern stingrays at stingray city, wikimedia commons

The diet of the stingray consists of more ocean creatures: clams, shrimp, oysters, crabs, and mussels. The clam’s shell is no protection from this flat fish. The powerful jaws of a stingray can crush their shells with ease.

Not stepping on one while walking around on the ocean floor can be tricky. They like to bury themselves in the sand; therefore, it is difficult to discover where one is. They camouflage themselves like this on the ocean floor—their colors usually match the mud or sand in which they hide—in order to watch for a tasty meal to swim by and also to hide from predators. Instead of watching for prey using their eyes, they use electro-sensors to detect when one of their favorite meals is close by.

school of stingrays, flickr

Usually, stingrays are solitary creatures and prefer to live alone, but they can be found in groups. Each group is known as a school of stingrays. Why do you think they would decide to live in a group? In Finding Nemo, they used this collective noun, but they put a bit of a twist on it: a stingray was the teacher for the school all the young fishes attended.

The female has between two and six babies a year. They can truly call their young ones “mini-me’s.” They are born fully formed but are smaller replicas of their mama.

This huge fish isn’t normally aggressive. Around humans, they are known to be kind and gentle. But they do have the potential to be aggressive, even deadly, if stepped on, run into, or if they feel trapped. The stingray, related to the shark, gained fame when one of them killed Steve Irwin. Did the fish kill him on purpose? I don’t know. Steve Irwin was swimming in an area where stingrays weren’t used to human interaction. Maybe it felt threatened by his presence. If the stingray had stung him in the leg, it probably wouldn’t have been fatal. It is normally deadly only if it stings someone in the chest or abdomen.

Writing Prompt:
What if? In Finding Nemo, a stingray was a school teacher. Give this huge flat fish the ability to breathe air and have him teach a group of human children on land. What would this air-breathing fish teach his human students?

The below video was made in memory of Steve Irwin. I loved watching The Crocodile Hunter, and I couldn’t bring myself to post a video that showed what happened to him even though those are available. Enjoy watching the stingrays swim around and interact with humans.

Recommended Article: Poison of the Sea – Jellyfish and Pufferfish

Enjoy Steve Irwin’s humor and knowledge in the below episode of The Crocodile Hunter.

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