(Found all around the Queensland coast and can pose a danger to those not wearing adequate foot protection)
The Stonefish is thought to be the most venemous fish in the world. It reaches approximately 35cm in length and has 13 dorsal fin spines all as sharp as needles with a gland/sac of highly toxic venom at their base. These spines are strong and can easily puncture unprotected skin such as a carelessly placed foot. The sting is extremely painful. Thought to be the cause of many deaths, however there have been no recorded Australian deaths. An antivenom developed in 1959 makes the risk of death even less likely. Prevention is always better than a cure so remember to wear sturdy soled shoes when walking in the water, especially in rocky areas. Stonefish eat crustaceans and small fish, they lay virtually motionless and are well camoflaged looking like an encrusted rock or piece of coral. They patiently wait until their prey passes by and then they stike with amazing speed, so if you want to photograph this you will need a high speed camera.. They are two types of stone fish found in Australia the Reef Stonefish and the Estuary Stonefish, the way to tell them apart is the placement of their eyes. A Reef Stonefish has a deep depression between its eyes and the Estuary Stonefish have elevated eyes seperated by a bony ridge. The Stonefish are by large brown or grey with patches of red, orange and yellow. The Reef Stonefish is found in tropical waters all around Australia including Ningaloo and the Great Barrier Reef. Preyed on by sharks and rays you will generally find them on the bottom in rubble or coral, hiding under rocks and ledges, but they have also been known to bury themselves in the sand with their pectoral fins. The Aboriginals of Australian have a dance that aims at educating their children about the dangers of stonefish. A carved replica of the stonefish is made out of clay and the dancer steps on it... He then wriths in pain and the dance ends in the death of the dancer.
Signs and symptoms
- Intense, very severe pain
- Swelling occurs rapidly causing cellular death
- Changes to systemic function eg. weakness or even paralysis
- Puncture wounds - may be several NB. the more puncture wounds the larger amount of venom injected and the deeper the penetration the more severe the symptoms
NB: As with most things prevention is better than treatment, so wear thick rubber soled booties and be careful where you step.
1. Very hot but not scalding water can alleviate pain initially
2. Apply a compression bandage
3 . Administration of antivenom intramuscularly if systemic function affected or severe pain
4 . Hospitalisation for administration of Intravenous analgesia; local anaesthetic; regional block
In severe cases, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Consult your doctor for treatment with suitable medications
Aw, M. (2000). Tropical reef fishes: A getting to know you and indentification guide. OceanNEnvironment Ltd: Australia.
EMedicine online: www.emedicine.com
PLEASE NOTE - DISCLAIMER:
The information provided above is for general purpose use and provided as guidance that is suggestive, not prescriptive, invasive, or medical in nature. You should always consult with or see a medical practitioner for definitive health care information or to receive medical treatment