The Amazing Flight of Little Ray
December 2018 by V. R. Duin

STINGRAY VENOM
OR STINGRAY POISON?

Little Ray was anything but dumb.
He began swinging like a pendulum.
Upside down, his spine was aimed wrong.
He could fix that — Little Ray was strong!
(“The Amazing Flight of Little Ray”)

A stingray stings with a stinging barb that may have stingray venom, which is called “stingray poison” by many people. In “The Amazing Flight of Little Ray”, the sting has no deadly or long-term effects.

Do not worry about the bird in this story. Fish stories seem to turn out well. The bird had no deadly or lasting effects. It lived to fly, again. A surprising fact about a past use for stingray venom may seem like another fish story. Ancient Greek dentists used this venom to numb pain. It was taken from glands hidden at the base of stingrays' stinging barbs. Once extracted from the animals, this venom deteriorated quickly. The stingrays did not live to sting, again. The side effects of this venom make it seem like “stingray poison”. It was a useful product, but modern drugs have taken over. The newer numbing products have longer shelf lives. These drugs are not free of side effects. However, they come from plants. No stingrays are killed to make them.


Can people fight off stinging animals? In fights with a human, the stinging animal is likely to win. The pain and swelling from a stingray wound can be severe. The damage can last a long time. The stingray venom may make the injury worse. The venom can cause death. Early warriors added stingray barbs to the tips of their arrowheads, spearheads and daggers. These deadly weapons may be found in displays at museums throughout the world. The size of these collections shows venom was used as “stingray poison” in ancient battles. The tails of large stingrays were used as cruel whips. Because of the damage caused, laws were made against the use of these weapons in today's world.


Are stingrays dangerous to humans? Stingrays do not attack people. When they are angered or feel threatened, their tails may be used in self-defense. Stingrays do not hunt people with their stingers. As shown in the above illustration from “The Amazing Flight of Little Ray”, a stingray swings its tail over its body to sting. The death of Australian naturalist, Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, was unfortunate. An Australian bull ray stabbed Mr. Irwin in the chest, killing him. This ray is a large member of the stingray family. Mr. Irwin was swimming in shallow water above the ray. This may have blocked the stingray's escape and caused it to defend itself. Fishermen may be stung when they try to release these fish. People can avoid stingray stings.


Can baby stingrays sting? The stinging barb of a young stingray is small and weak. It does not have deadly or lasting effects for large animals. Now, you know why bird may not be feeling pain from Little Ray's stingray sting. However, it should be clear that venom of any sting can be harmful. Small amounts can be very toxic to humans. The venom is called “stingray poison” by many people. During first aid, applying pressure may stop the bleeding. The wound must be cleaned. Soaking the injury in hot water may ease the pain. A kit and additional first aid instructions for a painful sting can be found at Ocean Care Solutions. Simple, home remedies are insufficient.


Where do stingrays have venom? The stingray's stinging barb is covered with a layer of skin called the sheath. The sheath holds the venom. It is filled by a gland at the base of the tail. The barbs are not toxic without the sheath. According to an article published by the Accident and Emergency Department of the Welsh Poison Unit, Stingray Injury can result from stepping on a dead and rotting stingray. The venom can have deadly or long-term effects. For scientists, venom is delivered by injection. Stingray venom should not be called “stingray poison”, because poison has to be swallowed. With or without the venom, large stingray stings to large veins or major organs are very dangerous to people.


Is stingray venom deadly? According to Pizard's GURPS Miscellanea, the venom of Stingrays causes terrible pain. The effects get worse with each sting. They get worse over time. Smaller victims face a greater risk of dying. Stingrays are not stinging machines. Rarely are stingray stings fatal. World-wide deaths average one or two each year. Rarely is death caused by the venom. Stinging injuries mostly are made to the feet or legs of people in shallow water. Never touch the tail area. The barb with venom is hidden there. The venom is called “stingray poison”, because it can cause fast or slow death. To get well can take years. Foot and Ankle Online Journal provides a Stingray Envenomation of the Foot: a Case Report finds venom in 75% of stings. It reports the barb breaks off in 5% of wounds.


Is the stinging barb dangerous? The stinging parts stay attached to the body. They are not shot like arrows from a bow. Stingrays control the tail, not the stinger. The wound made by a large stingray can be deep. The sting can cause severe injury without the venom. The venom lasts for only one sting. Stingrays can keep stabbing. The cutting edges run the full length of the barb on both sides. They cut like a butcher's knife. The painful sting hurts skin, muscles and tendons. The wounds can get infected. The stinger may break off, requiring surgery to remove it. According to Pizard's GURPS Miscellanea, Sawfish have a chainsaw-like blade on their nose. These rays can knock holes in boats and make nasty wounds in humans. These fish can cause death or lasting injury.


How are stingray stings treated?. There is no anti-venom drug for stingrays. Fast medical attention is needed. Medications for allergic reactions may help some symptoms. Victims should be given nothing to drink. Liquids may cause choking. Drugs for treatment include tetanus shots, antibiotics, pain medications and drugs to increase blood pressure. The patient is kept awake during treatment. However, the patient may not walk away from deadly wounds, infections or loss of blood. In addition to wound care, treatment for the stingray poison varies with the symptoms: chills, delirium, diarrhea, difficulty or stopping of breathing, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, fainting, fever, heart failure, hives, muscle cramping, nausea, paralysis, seizures, shaking, swelling and/or vomiting. Effects from small injuries may last for hours. Victims should be placed on their backs. Their feet should be higher than their heads. Tight clothing should be loosened and movement stopped to slow the spread of venom.


What can dangerous animals teach people? The lesson is that not all creatures are friendly. Much like people, animals are different from one another. Some of them should be avoided. Most of them will try to stay away from people. People, who do not work in biomedical research, and are not in search of a new drug delivery system or ingredient, should not chase a stinging creature. It is important to stay away from animals with tail spines or venom. A stingray's toxic venom and sharp barb serves as the last line of defense for stingrays. Not all rays are stingrays. Not all rays have barbs with venom. Sharks may be immune to stingray venom. For them, venom does not act like a “stingray poison”. Sharks may be luckier than people.


Can sharks sting a person? According to Pizard's GURPS Miscellanea, Dogfish Sharks have stinging spines at the base of the dorsal fin. These sharks feed in packs that may number in the thousands. Careless handling of these small, aggressive sharks may result in envenoming. The painful sting is likely to be memorable. Generally, it can be treated and cured. Even if there is no permanent damage, the fear is likely to remain. These animals cause severe pain. In some cases, the injuries may have deadly or long-term effects, just like those from stingrays. They are in the same family of fish.


Can manta rays sting a person? A huge difference between a stingray and a manta ray is the means of defense. Some rays, including giant mantas, have no special defense mechanisms at all. Manta rays are stingray relatives. They do not have stinging barbs or stingray venom. Manta rays cannot make painful stings. They can only use their huge size to frighten away intruders. When this scare tactic fails, even the most giant of manta rays will try to flee from determined attackers. Flight is the first line of defense for these large, peaceful and quiet fish. The scientific name for the giant oceanic manta ray is “manta birostris”. “Sting” does not form part of their ray name.


Do manta rays fight with their horns? The horns on a devil ray or its manta cousin are not used for fighting. Called cephalic lobes, these are extensions of the pectoral fins. According to Pizard's GURPS Miscellanea, Devil Rays are the largest member of the manta family. These filter feeders can weigh up to one ton. Devil rays have a name that makes them seem aggressive. However, only one member of this species has a venomous stinging barb. The horns are part of the filter-feeding apparatus that unfolds to funnel plankton, krill and small fish into their mouths. Devil rays and manta rays, like most stingrays, are mild. Only one type of devil ray has the effects of “stingray poison”. It joins all other rays with its desire to flee rather than defend itself.


Are electric rays dangerous to people? Stingray venom may be worse than electric shock. Electric rays stun prey and predators with electric shock. Electric rays can control their shock levels to either ward off or kill potential predators. The power of their shock renders these animals almost fearless. The shock from an electric ray may knock down a human or large animal, causing death by drowning. The defense of electric shock is as deadly as the stingray “poison” from a stingray sting for the prey on which electric rays dine. A large electric ray can kill some sharks. Pizard's GURPS Miscellanea gives a breakdown of electric jolt by size for Electric Rays. The shock is likely to be painful, but not deadly to healthy, adult people or large animals.


Do other fish have electric shock ability? Electric rays are not the only fish with shock ability. In addition to electric rays, electric catfish and electric eels are fish with electric shock ability. Electric eels shock with cells running almost the length of their bodies. Unlike true eels, electric eels are fish that live in freshwater and breathe air. Electric catfish are predatory, freshwater fish that cannot be put in tanks with other species of fish. They are immune to their own shock. These unfriendly fish are rarely kept in private aquariums. They do not thrive in captivity and they present dangers for handlers. However, the electric charges made by these fish are of interest to humans. Electric charges have been used throughout the ages as experimental cures and instruments of torture. Fortunately, these electric fish do not seem interested in humans.


Stingrays are luckier than honey bees. Stingrays can keep stinging after their venom is gone. If a barb breaks off during the attack, it grows back. When stinging barbs wear out, new ones are growing. New barbs may push the old ones off. Barbs also can stack on top of each other. None of this is good for the victim. Damage is caused with each sting. After honey bees sting a mammal, they cannot safely pull out their stingers. The pulling action rips off large parts of their bodies, killing them. Other bees, ants, hornets, yellow jackets, wasps and scorpions survive their painful stings. Like stingrays, these stinging creatures can sting, again and again. Unlike stingrays, some of these creatures may sting other animals for easy eating. With stingrays, the stinging action is purely defensive. Allergic reactions to stings from any of these creatures may have deadly or lasting effects.


Are there venomous animals on land? Yes. Many of these animals live on land. The venoms delivered by ants, bees, hornets, wasps, scorpions and yellow jackets are different from the venom of stingrays. However, all of these creatures have tails with stingers to inject their venom. As with stingray “poison”, the venoms of ants, bees, wasps, hornets, scorpions and yellow jackets can be deadly or have long-term effects. The toxic and painful stings can be crippling. A stinging barb may be left behind by these stinging creatures. X rays may be needed to find the small stinger parts left in the wounds. Stings to a person by any of these animals can lead to bad allergic reactions and cause long hospital stays for treatment. Other animals bite to deliver venom. Snakes and spiders are the best-known of dangerous biters. Some toads and frogs ooze poison through their skin. Touching or eating them can sicken or kill. The poison can go from hand to mouth.


What are groups of sharks and stingrays called? A group of sharks is called a “shiver”, which makes sense. Many people shiver just to think of the damage sharks can cause. A group of stingrays is called a “fever”. This also makes sense. A fever can result from infections caused by a stingray's stinging barb or from the stingray venom. Local health departments monitor the bacteria levels of water in their areas. They report to state agencies. When bacteria levels are high, alerts and bans may be issued by these agencies to keep swimmers and waders out of the water. Bacteria may enter the body when the water is swallowed. It also may infect wounds bathed in it. Infection adds to the danger of stingray stings. Victims, who delay treatment, may experience deadly or long-term complications from these organisms.


Do other venomous animals live in the sea? Yes. Jellyfish have venom in tentacles that look like tails. Their venom works after they tear apart and die. The box jellyfish is deadly. It lives in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean near Northern Australia. Unlike stingrays and sharks, jellyfish are not fish. More people are killed by box jellies than by sharks or stingrays. Box jellies are among the most venomous animals in the world. Few victims live long enough to reach shore. Box jellyfish also are called sea wasps and marine stingers. Most jellyfish float on currents to travel. They do not swim with their tentacles. To move through the water, box jellies use their bodies. They pump in water, then push it out. Animals get trapped and killed by the tentacles hanging behind them. Jellyfish have no brains, no backbones and no thoughts of attacking.


Animals do not need venom to be dangerous. Eating, drinking or exposing wounds to dirty water is more likely to kill a person. This filth also can worsen a stingray sting. When this filth gets into a would, it acts like a “stingray poison”. The most deadly creature in the world has no venom. It is the mosquito. The World Health Organization provides an Executive Summary of Insect-Borne Diseases. Most people bitten by the world's most dangerous insect suffer an itchy bump. However, the blood-eating mosquito causes diseases that kill several million people and sicken hundreds of millions of others, each year. It also kills animals. The saliva of this insect has anti-clogging functions, like vampire bats.


Female mosquitoes feed on blood to aid in egg production. There are many different types of mosquitoes. The females bite. Male mosquitoes eat fruit and flower nectar. Electrical, chemical and magnetic repellents may not live up to the claims of warding off sharks. Mosquito repellents may work better than those for more highly feared, but less dangerous beasts. A simple shuffling motion may ward off stingray stings. There is no need to face the deadly or long-term effects of “stingray poison”. Avoidance is easier and safer than treatment for severe wounds or toxic stingray venom.

Avoid Deadly or Long-Term Effects

  • stingray stings Little Ray says:

    For information after stingray stings and to prevent deadly or long-term effects from “stingray poison”in the United States, call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • stingray venom Little Ray says:

    Stephen Robert “Steve” Irwin died from trauma and stingray venom, but his enthusiasm for wildlife remains, thanks to his family and documentaries co-hosted with his wife.

    • stinging barbLittle Ray says:

      Any stingray with a stinging barb can sting, even the babies, so beware when entering or moving through water.