It is actually a
clay model of a fish with 13 wooden dorsal spines. The dancer experiences
terrible agony, writhing on the ground. The whole ritual ends sadly with
a death song. The fish involved in the dance is the stonefish, also a member
of the scorpionfish family. It is believed to be the deadliest fish in
This is the most venomous
fish known. It reaches up to 35 cm in length and lives in the Indo-Pacific
region and northern Australian waters, from Brisbane to 600 km north of
Perth. Stonefish may be found from exposed sand and mud in tidal inlets
to depths of 40 m. Lying on the sea bed, it is perfectly camouflaged and
looks exactly like an encrusted rock. It feeds on small fish and shrimps.
When they swim by, the stonefish opens its mouth with lightning speed and
gulps them down. The whole attack lasts for just 0,015 seconds.
Because the stonefish is
vulnerable to attacks by bottom-feeding sharks and rays, it has found a
way to defend itself- there is a row of 13 venomous spines along its back.
In fact, the victim is the one who injures oneself. The stonefish is only
dangerous if stepped on or caught. The thirteen dorsal spines project from
venom glands along the back and venom is involuntarily expelled when pressure
is exercised upon them. Then, a few weeks pass before the glands regenerate
The sting causes excruciating
pain and a tremendous swelling rapidly develops with death of tissues.
The severity of the symptoms depends on the depth of penetration and the
number of spines involved. The effects of the venom are muscle weakness,
temporary paralysis and shock, which may result in death if not treated.
Fatalities are known in the Indo-Pacific region but not in Australian waters.
One can prevent oneself from
stonefish injury by wearing thick-soled shoes and treading very lightly-
spines can piece through a shoe!
At the beginning immersing
the stung area into hot water may be effective, but hospitalization for
intravenous narcotic analgesia, local anaesthetic infiltration or regional
block may be required. Definitive management consists of administration
of stonefish antivenom usually given intramuscularly.
Antivenom is administered
-the victim suffers from
-systematic symptoms like
weakness and paralysis are observed
-there are multiple punctures,
which indicate the discharge of several spines. This means that larger
amount of venom has been injected.