The Flower urchin has one hell of a nasty sting……

Flower urchins - Lots of people get injured by sea urchins. Most of time it is a minor incident and all that is required is a little minor first aid to remove a few spines from the victims skin and a little pain...... The Flower urchin is another ‘kettle of fish’.

The urchin (Toxopneustes pileolus), is a particularly attractive as well as harmless looking urchin. It is NOT harmless!

It is found in the Indo-pacific ocean region, from East Africa to Southern Japan and down to Indonesia and the Cook Islands, usually on sandy or rocky bottoms where it can cover itself with debris - either sand or broken shells.

Flower urchin

It is usually full grown at around 14cm in diameter though it will grow up to approximately 20cm.

Close up of flower urchin

The stings of the Flower urchin are from the petal like features (pedicellariae) on the urchin, not from the spines which are underneath the pedicellariae.

The pedicellariae are a very small, tripled-jawed grabbing organ on a long stalk located in amongst, and in this case, covering the spines.
Fanglike appendages are associated with venom glands at the tips of each jaw. The fangs are capable of penetrating human skin.
Each of the three jaws of the Toxopneustes globiferous pedicellariae is equipped with a venom sac and gland. These jaws act as pincers in the event of an attack. They generally are regarded as acutely defensive.
The urchin uses them for various purposes, amongst which is to clean parasites off itself or as a venomous weapon.

Many reports say there have been several deaths as a result of stings from this urchin, I have been unable to substantiate that other than a reference to the fact that the poison itself is not necessarily fatal but the pain and shock of being stung may have caused drowning in itself as is reputed to be the case with a female diver in Indonesia. There are few, if not no, documented deaths.

Either way it is a bit of a problem if you get stung!

The stings may or even WILL occur as a result of simply handling or touching the Flower urchin.
The sting results in intense radiating pain, prickling or numbness, abnormally low blood pressure, respiratory distress, and muscular paralysis all of which lasting anything up to 6 hours.

First Aid

The injured person should be removed from the water as quickly as possible and the poisoned limb, immersed in as hot water as can be stood without scalding for up to an hour.

The person should be monitored to ensure respiratory complications do not develop in which case resuscitation will be required as well as urgent medical assistance should be sought.

Antibiotics may be administered to prevent infection and pain medication as required.

To read about other poisonous fish like the Flower urchin, click here

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