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The 'stonefish', Synanceia verrucosa, also known as the the reef stone or dornorn is a carnivorous ray-finned fish with venomous spines that lives on reef bottoms, camouflaged as a rock. It is the most venomous known fish in the world.



The stonefish lives primarily above the tropic of Capricorn: It is the most widespread species of the stonefishes family, and is known to be found in the shallow tropical marine waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans, ranging from the Red Sea to the Queensland Great Barrier Reef.



stonefish head detail, natural colours, Dahab.The average length of most stonefish is about 30-40 centimeters. The largest Stonefish ever recorded was 51 centimeters long. It has a mottled greenish to mostly brown colour which aids in its ability to camouflage itself among the rocks of many of the tropical reefs. It eats mostly small fish, shrimp and other crustaceans.



Its main habitat is on coral reefs, around dull coloured plants, near and about rocks, or can be found dormant in the mud or sand.

Points of noteThe primary commercial significance of the stonefish is as an aquarium pet, but they are also sold for their meat in Hong Kong markets. In addition, stonefish is also consumed in Japan as expensive sashimi cuisine (called okoze). Stonefish can survive out of water for up to 20 hours.

VenomThe Stonefish is the most venomous fish in the world. Its dorsal area is lined with 13 spines that release a venomous toxin from two sacs attached to each spine. Its venom causes severe pain with possible shock, paralysis, and tissue death depending on the depth of the penetration. This level can be fatal to humans if not given medical attention within a couple of hours. Immediate first aid treatment requires the immobilisation of venom at penetration site; depending on the depth of penetration this can be achieved either by firm constrictive bandaging or by a managed tourniquet sited between wound and proximal flexure.

The venom consists of a mixture of proteins, including the hemolytic stonustoxin, the neurotoxic trachynilysin and the cardioactive cardioleputin; an antivenin is available.


The venom is protein based, and it can be (partially) denatured by the application of a very hot compress to the injury site. Some relief can be gained from infiltrating the wound with a local anaesthetic. This is a temporary measure to reduce localized pain and shock. Medical aid must be sought at the earliest opportunity. Typically, surviving victims suffer localized nerve damage occasionally leading to atrophy of adjoining muscle tissues.

There have been unproven reports of osteo-arthritic sufferers experiencing improved mobility and reduction in joint pain following envenomation episode. The responsible agent has not been identified.

The pain is said to be so bad that the victims of its sting want the affected limb to be amputated. The poisonous sting of Scorpion Fish and Lionfish are said to deliver almost the same level of pain.


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