Life of Sea | Reef Stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa) | Reef stonefish is believed as the most venomous fish in the world. Do not touch this fish when you see them. They usually live on rubble or coral bottoms, often under rocks or ledges, but are also known to be able to bury in sand using their large pectoral fins. Therefore, Reef stonefish are masters of camouflage looking and lying like stones and rocks waiting for their prey. Reef stonefish is widely distributed throughout tropical and marine waters of the Indo-Pacific. In Australia, they are found from much of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, to far northern New South Wales.
Reef stonefish are extremely well camouflaged, looking like an encrusted rock or lump of coral. Individuals are usually brown or grey and may have patches of yellow, orange or red. Reef stonefish has thirteen stout dorsal fin spines which can inject an extremely poisonous venom. They grow to 35 cm in length, although it has been reported to 51 cm in length. Two species of stonefishes are recorded from Australia, the Reef stonefish and the Estuarine stonefish. One of the ways to tell the two species apart is the placement of the eyes. The eyes of the Reef Stonefish are separated by a deep depression, however those of Estuarine stonefish are elevated and separated by a bony ridge
Reef stonefish eats fish and crustacea. It usually waits for prey to swim past, and then strikes with incredible speed. Predators of the Reef stonefish include sharks and rays. Reef stonefish is the most venomous fish in the world. It has thirteen stout spines in the dorsal fin which can inject a highly toxic venom. The venom causes intense pain and is believed to have killed many Pacific and Indian Ocean islanders. No deaths have been recorded in Australia since European arrival. An anti-venom developed in 1959 further reduces the likelihood of death. Despite this, many people suffer the agony of a sting every year. Very hot water (not scalding) can be used to relieve the pain, but medical treatment should be sought.
The 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 are also consumed in the Philippines (mostly found in Chinese restaurants) and in Japan as expensive sashimi cuisine . Stonefish can survive out of water for up to 20 hours.
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