The scorpion fish lying motionless on the reef will have given most scuba divers mild shock upon the realization that what they thought was reef alone, is actually a scorpion fish capable of inflicting a very painful sting.

Scorpion fish

The Scorpion fish is in the same family as Lionfish and the Stonefish. They are particularly interesting looking and I suppose from a certain perspective a bit ugly.

There are a few hundred sub-species, some accounts state over 380.

The variations in appearance are many with various colors from bright purple to yellow and all variations in between. They are capable of changing color to suit their surroundings.

The Scorpion fish are divided into various sub-species, a few of the types are:

  • Devil Scorpion Fish.
  • Orange Scorpion Fish.
  • Decoy Scorpion.
  • Leaf Scorpion Fish.

Part of the camouflage of the Scorpion fish is as a result of the algae and other parasitic growth which often covers them.

The fish is a fairly common sight in many of the seas and oceans in temperate and tropical waters.
Their range is the Red Sea, Caribbean Sea, Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are a fairly common sight.

In exactly the same manner as the Stonefish – the Scorpion fish has 12-13 dorsal spines, 2 pelvic spines, and 3 anal spines. Each spine is is linked to a pair of venom glands. A loose sheath covers each spine. The sheath is pushed down the spine during poisoning, causing the venom glands located at the base of the spines to be squeezed and release their poison up the spines and into the wound.

Symptoms of poisoning

The Venom is heat labile (readily destroyed by heat). It is collectively myotoxic (affects muscles), neurotoxic (nerves), vaso permeable (causes swelling), and cardio toxic (heart).

  • Severe local pain, which can extend to entire limb.
  • Swelling which can also extend to entire limb.
  • Gastrointestinal – Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea
  • Respiratory – Shortness of breath, heart and vascular, change in blood pressure and heart beat – both slower or faster
  • Fainting, delirium, seizures or paralysis

First Aid

The poison can be destroyed by heat so immersion in hot water – not scalding – goes a long way to neutralizing the pain as well as the poison.

The wound should be cleaned to remove any debris.

The wound should NOT be taped or closed.

The patient may also receive:

  • Antibiotics, if necessary.
  • Life support (blood pressure, circulation, breathing), if necessary.
  • Pain medication.
  • Tetanus injection.

To read more about poisonous fish like Scorpion fish, click here

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