Latin name: Synanceia

The stonefish is one of the ugliest fishes in the ocean. But don't hurt its feelings, because it's also one of the most deadly.

This is how you can make an obese catfish look like a stonefish:

  1. Cut off the whiskers.
  2. Glue a ridge of about 13 pins on its back.
  3. Take it into a laundromat.
  4. Look for a trash can filled with lint.
  5. Throw the fish in the can. Shake the can thoroughly.
  6. What you pull out will look like a stonefish.
As you may have guessed, the stonefish looks this way because it spends much of its time on the bottom of the ocean in coastal waters, usually near a reef. It is excellently camouflaged. Varieties of Stonefish are found all over the world in tropical waters, usually near reefs. Australia has them, and I saw a few myself scuba diving in the Red Sea. They eat other fish, and are generally left alone by larger fish, as both their spines and their flesh itself is toxic.

About 300 people a year get stung by stonefish. If you happen to step on one, I pity you. If you don't get medical attention, you are likely to die of either respiratory failure or shock after about three hours of delirium and intense pain spread through your entire body. Morphine will not ease this pain. If you do get to a hospital, you will be bathed in hot water to reduce the agony, and given antivenom. You may also need to be given skin grafts, as the poison can kill the cells in the flesh that it touches. You will then be montored for paralysis in the appendage that was stung.

Info came from several sources, but the most helpful were www.uq.edu.au/~ddbfry/index.html for the venom information, and www.letsfindout.com/subjects/undersea/rfistone.html for information on the fish itself.

The stonefish has what is regarded as the most painful venom on earth.

The venom is injected through the 13 spikes along the back. When the stonefish senses danger, it raises the spikes, which are sheathed under its scales. When pressure is applied to their top, i.e. somebody stepping on them, the sheaths are pushed down, the spikes are exposed, and they begin to secrete venom.

Once in the blood, the venom cells are large and spikey. They travel around setting off pain receptors, and slaughtering red blood cells. The pain receptors cause... pain and the destruction of large amounts of red blood cells deprives the body of oxygen and leads to painful cramps.

Divers are said to drown in water, no matter what the depth, as after being poisoned they cannot swim.

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