The marine organism that most captivates my interest is the whimsical and elusive stonefish. By its name alone, one already gets a clear picture as it is not only a noun by which it is known but also an adjective which best describes how it looks…
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The stonefish belongs to the class Osteichthyes and the order Scorpainiformes under the Synanceiidae. There are different species in this genus totaling 28 and two of them are the most venomous fish known to man. The Synanceia horrida being the deadliest and the other, the Synanceia verucossa is also known for the harm it could bring. It can grow up to 40 centimeters in length and feeds mostly on fish and crustaceans. They mainly wait for food to come to them and almost never sting to catch prey. This means that their venom is for purposes of self-defense rather than for hunting food. A clear study of its reproduction habit and life span is yet to be explored while its birthing pattern is believed to be through planktonic eggs. Their habitat consists of the shallow sandy waters and reefs where they are often mistaken as rocks. Aesthetically, this fish has a wide head relatively not proportioned to its small tail but where there should be scale, a stonefish has warts and slime covering its body (Burton and Burton 2547-2548).
Stonefish can be found mostly in the indo-pacific region, that is the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and known to be common in these waters. Among them, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is well-known as home for a number of different species of stonefish. They are usually in the colors of brown and green with different colored patches to camouflage in their surroundings. Their venom is released through the spines on their back which makes them deadly in rare cases. The trouble lies in the fact that they are difficult to see and most times it is only after a person has already had an unpleasant encounter with these creatures that they realize they are even there (Antill 4-5). Effects of envenomation differ significantly among reports which range from virtually nonexistent to deadly in a few rare occasions. The process starts with the breaking or wounding of the skin which makes it possible for the poison to be injected through it (Burton and Burton 2547). The experiences of humans with this animal are usually unpleasant which tends to create an atmosphere of legends around them and since most notable encounters are associated with pain, they have been regarded as nuisances and a cause for concern. “It is not widely appreciated that stonefish are plentiful in the sea, but because of their superb camouflage they are not commonly sighted… Similarly, as records of stings show, stonefish stings are themselves not rare” (Williamson, Fenner, Burnett and Rifkin 374). The fact that they look just like stones or algae that form part of their most immediate surroundings make them invisible to the indiscriminate eyes. In the event that envenomation occurs, the best first aid treatment advised is to immerse the affected are in hot water to relieve of the pain. Preferably, anti-venom must be sought immediately in the nearest local medical facility upon confirmation that a person has been poisoned by a stonefish. Handling a stonefish must be with great care. It should not be carried by hand and a stick would come in handy if this occurs. Authorities even suggest that it will be best to just throw the fish back in the water and let it swim away. If one finds it necessary to handle it, the best way is to hold it by the tail which could most likely alarm it and thus raise its spines in defense (ibid 381). The prudent attitude is to steer away from them to avoid envenomation and logically to refrain from picking up or going near what may seem to be just an ordinary rock when in
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