The stonefish is one of the world’s most dangerous stinging fish. There are two Australian species of stonefish, Synanceia and S. verrucosa and they are found in the warm coastal waters such as Queensland and Shark Bay (Western Australia). These well-camouflaged little fish often bury themselves into sand or mud in shallow waters such as lagoons or coastal flats. Looking like a rock they are almost impossible to see (that’s reassuring). Stonefish should not be touched, patted or cuddled, even if you find one lying on the beach, as they have the ability to survive out of water for long periods of time.

Why Are They So Unkind

The stonefish has thirteen sharp dorsal spines located on their backs. These spines are fed with toxic venom (two venom sacs per spine) via 26 glands lying below the skin on the creature’s back. The venom is released when pressure is placed on the spine, like when you step on one. The venomous spines of the stonefish have the potential to penetrate rubber-soled shoes or sandals. If you are unlucky enough to be stung by one, you will feel the sting almost immediately and may lose consciousness. Other side effects are swelling, irregular breathing, reduction in blood pressure and paralysis (charming!). Fortunately, there have been no recorded deaths as a result of a stonefish sting in Australian waters (yes you just suffer all the above symptoms!). However, if stung, you should immerse the stung area in hot water and go immediately to the nearest hospital to be administered with stonefish antivenom. I am thinking at this stage just go directly to the hospital because it would be highly unlikely to find hot water or even a kettle in the areas these creatures are found. The stonefish feeds on small fish and shrimp.