Thursday, 29 July 2010

my fascination with stonefish

I have formed a morbid fascination with stonefish (Synanceia). Ever since I started going on these reef trips and getting warned by the chaps to watch out for stonefish, I have become extremely curious about them.

Stonefish is the world's most venomous fish. The neurotoxin they produce is considered to be the most deadly of fish venoms, thus making them the most dangerous fish in our waters.

They belong to the family Scorpaenidae which includes some 45 genera and 380 species including the likes of lionfish and scorpionfish. Synanceiidae itself has 9 genera and some 31 species. The two species which are commonly found in Singapore's waters are the Hollow-cheek stonefish (Synanceia horrida) or the estuarine stonefish, and the Reef stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa). The former is found mainly in muddy places and estuaries while the latter is found mostly in the sandy or coral rubble areas of reef flats, shallow lagoons and tide pools during low tide.

Stonefish are found in the coastal regions of Indo-Pacific oceans. Their dorsal spines contain neurotoxins, which acts like hypodermic needles, injecting venom when external pressure is applied, i.e. stepping on them. To make matter worse, stonefish are masters of camouflage as they often look like an innocent seedweed encrusted stone/rock. Even a specimen as small as a 20 cent coin can deliver quite a punch.

And as bizarre as it sounds, stonefish is considered a delicacy in our part of the world. Below are some photos taken from this guy's blog of his experience eating the fish at a seafood restaurant at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. It's quite bizarre to see the guy foolishly touching the stonefish in the tanks like it was some harmless specimen in a touch pool. Maybe the spines were cut off, but still. I wonder if any accidents have happened yet.

Anyway, i've yet to see one during the last 2 trips but I hope to do so in the upcoming visits to Cyrene and Terumbu Pempang Laut. I've given up my booties for army boots because the soles are thicker and are probably less susceptible to penetration, so I think.

Read more about Stonefish here"-

Wildshores's write up on the Hollow-cheeked stonefish

Medical blog 'Life in the Fast Lane

Singapore Medical Journal's article on stonefish stings

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