Little Ray is shown stinging a bird with no lasting venomous effects during an amazing flight, displayed at 50% of viewport width.
December 2020 by Terry Verduin

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 and toxic stingray venom. Called “stingray poison” by many people, there are no deadly or long-term effects with Little Ray's storied sting.

Strange History

Lean Streak? Do not worry about the bird in this story. Tail spines of young stingrays are functional, but small and immature. Fish stories usually end well. An ancient use for this toxin may seem like a truly tall tale.


Crossing Over? Greek dentists used the protein-based toxin to numb pain. The ancient medicine quickly lost strength. Modern drugs have longer shelf lives. Stingrays are not killed for modern plant-based pharmaceuticals.


Classical Relative? The chimera was depicted by the Greeks as a fire-breathing blend of animals. It has a venomous spine in front of the dorsal fin. Chimera toxins also found past use in various chemical concoctions.

Good Science

Low Concentrations? Marine venoms may aid cancer treatment. NCBI of NLM adds fuel to this hope in Antiproliferative activity of marine stingray Dasyatis sephen venom on human cervical carcinoma cell line.


Hands of Time? Recovery can take years. Foot and Ankle Online Journal presents Stingray Envenomation of the Foot: a Case Report. Venom accompanies 75% of stings. Tail stinger parts break off in 5% of wounds.


Imaging? A case report in Wildlife and Environmental Medicine, entitled Retained Stingray Barb and the Importance of Imaging argues a disabling outcome may have been avoided by earlier X-ray or ultrasound.

Born Fighters

Stingray Size? Baby stingrays weigh about one pound (0.45 kg) and measure six inches (15.24 cm) long, excluding the tails. Adults can weigh 660 pounds (300 kg) and measure more than 6 feet (1.9 m) in length.


Stingray Barb Attack? Stingrays typically flee rather than attack. The tail wielding a venomous spear extends over a great length. A frightened stingray can aggressively strike hundreds of times in mere seconds.


Buckle Your Shoe? Children and the elderly face greater death risks. Over time and with each penetration, the effects worsen. Stung victims often get airlifted from beaches for urgent medical intervention.

Escape Artists

Front & Center? Little Ray teaches children and adults to avoid retaining old emotional pains and fears. It is preferable to meet stressful situations or problems with calm, strength, wisdom and restraint.


Bright Line? Rays spend most of their time hiding in the background. When avoiding conflicts fails, these stinging fish are prepared to defend themselves. A stingray can be a formidable opponent when challenged.


Beached Orcas? Stingray-eating Orcas, or killer whales, do not always escape harm from their preys' piercing barbs. Killer Whale carcasses have been beached in New Zealand with stingray barbs stuck in them.

Soft Options

Monstrous Mantas? These open sea dwellers have no stingers, venom, sharp teeth or special defenses. Manta birostris is the scientific name for the giant oceanic manta ray. Immense size may scare off attackers.


Looking Sharp? Horns on mantas are not used for fighting. Called cephalic lobes, they unfold for food funneling. Devil rays also have these filter-feeding parts. The small “alfredi” species lives in coastal waters.


Devilish Spears? One devil ray of the eagle ray family has venomous barbs. Devil Rays are larger than the manta rays in this family. Weighing as much as a ton, these deep coastal dwellers may reach shallow waters.

Win or Lose

Lookalikes? Skates are distinguished from rays in the family by prominent dorsal fins. Stingrays' whip-like tails bear stinging spines. Skates have thicker tails, lacking spines. Most rays are much larger than skates.


Half-Shark-Half-Ray? The guitarfishes are in the order of skates. Unlike stingrays and some other rays or sharks in the family, they have no stinging barbs. They look similar to sawfish, but they are harmless to people.


Up to Par? Animals can defeat humans. Sawfish are rays. They sense and hunt prey with chainsaw-like blades. These snouts puncture boats and cut deeply into flesh. Survivors often require multiple surgeries.

How a Stingray Stings

Fishing Style? Stingrays don't hunt with their stingers. When threatened, they act in self-defense. A stingray swings its tail over its body to sting. The cutting edges slash muscles and tendons like a butcher's knife.


Hit the Spot? Stingrays control the tails, not the stingers. Although the toxic spines stiffen, they remain physically attached. They are not shot like arrows from bows. Unhooking these by-catches presents risks to anglers.


Self-Inflected Pain? The location of the stinging barb on the tail prevents a stingray from striking itself. In the event it pierces another ray or shark, immunity deactivates the venom. The wound may be deadly.

Stinging Sharks

Copycats? Silver-tipped Sharks, also known as Colombian Shark Catfish have venomous dorsal and pectoral fin spines. They look like sharks, but they are not. Many species of catfish can make painful or deadly wounds.


Fortified Sharks? Dogfish sharks have two mildly venomous spines in front of the dorsal fins. Used in defense, they curl their bodies. These aggressive hunter ram or bite to disable prey two or three times their size.


Hunting Packs? Dogfish sharks were named for their hunts in large packs. Although their painful stings can be cured, it is smart to avoid all stinging creatures. Infections from the injuries can be virulent.

How a Stingray Bites

Suction Injury? Stingrays often latch onto a person by mouth suction rather than with teeth. Pulling away may cause painful skin-tearing damage. Most injuries resemble hickeys. They can bleed or lead to blood clots.


Blood Clot Treatment? Treatment depends upon clot location and size. The use of anticoagulant medications to thin blood prevents further clotting. Pain and swelling can take weeks to go away. Clots can be deadly.


Male Power? To hang onto females while mating, the males develop pointed ends on some of their teeth. These bites may break human skin. No poison is associated with the injury. As with any wound, infection may occur.

Defenses

Biting Danger? Stingrays have no reason to bite for defense in the wild. Crushing bites with suction force are associated with food. Captive, hand-fed stingrays may pinch, leaving bruises, while sucking in food.


Last Stand? Early warriors used stingray barbs on arrow, spear and dagger tips. Museums hold vast collections in displays. The tails make cruel whips. Laws now prevent the use of these and other dangerous whips.


Group Names? A group of sharks is called a “shiver”. Folks shiver at mere thought of the ravages. A group of stingrays is a “fever”. Fever results from infections carried in water. Sharks show toxin and disease resistance.

Stinging Barb

Body of Evidence? World-wide annual deaths from stingray stings average one or two. Most injuries occur to waders' feet or legs in shallow water. Broken stingers left in victims require surgical removal.


Custom Content? The integumentary sheath covering the barb contains venom. It enters from a gland at the base of the tail. If the sheath breaks, venom is released. Forced into the victim, it acts like poison.


To the Point? Barbs have no uniform appearance. Some are serrated. Others are not. Some are in the middle of the tail. Others are near the body of the fish. Some stingrays have multiple stacked stingers. Others are single.

Give and Take

Dual Action? The Asian tiger snake has a venomous bite. It also is poisonous to consume. The poison from its toad prey is stored in its skin. It also can pass from the mother to her offspring for future defenses.


Golden Gut? After honey bees pierce a mammal, they cannot safely pull out their stingers. This action rips away some body parts, killing them. Stingray power is superior. Unlike honey bees, they can keep attacking.


Another Round? Other bees, ants, hornets, yellow jackets, wasps and scorpions can sting repeatedly. This disables prey for easy eating. Allergic reactions to the stings may produce fatal or lasting effects.

Lie in Wait

Ambush? Crocodiles, like most stingrays, hunt by ambush. Prey is caught drinking from banks or while it is bathing. Stingrays hide in wait on the ocean bottom. Unlike sharks, these animals rarely do active hunting.


Stingray Stings Can Be Avoided. Entering and moving through the water with Little Ray's Stingray Shuffle movements typically scares them away. It is unwise to challenge their powerful defenses with carelessness.


Power House? Blocking a stingray's path can be lethal. Australian naturalist, Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, may have obstructed an Australian bull ray. The large fish speared him multiple times in the chest, killing him.

Deadly or Long-Term Effects

Cause of Death? Stephen Robert “Steve” Irwin likely died from trauma and hemorrhaging, rather than toxin. His family employs the documentaries he co-hosted with his wife to preserve his legacy involving wildlife.


Stingray Spike? The sharp, rigid point repeatedly penetrates foe. An increasing magnitude of strikes coupled with strong venom concentrations can be lethal. It was said Mr. Irwin “could not have been saved”.


Poison is Swallowed. Venom is injected. An article published by the Accident and Emergency Department of the Welsh Poison Unit reports stepping on dead and rotting stingrays can cause serious injury.

Prepare & Prevent

Peak Form? Authorities are proactive. Seashores are installing emergency-call boxes. Guard stations are stocking tourniquet kits. Tightened bands apply pressure to staunch blood flow and stop hemorrhaging.


24/7 Hot Line: For information, risk assessment and treatment guidance subsequent to “poisonings” occurring in the United States, call The National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.


Warning? It is important to learn the meanings of flags and signs. It is illegal to enter water or beaches when these are closed due to hazards. Lifeguards are not present. Violators may be fined for law enforcement.

Stingray Sting Treatment

There is No Antidote. Victims should be placed on their backs, feet higher than their heads, with tight clothing loosened. Remaining still slows the toxic spread. Drinks may cause choking. Hot water soaks ease pain.


Symptoms? Among these are blood loss, chills, cramps, delirium, diarrhea, difficulty or cessation of breathing, dizziness, fainting, fever, heart failure, hives, low blood pressure, nausea, paralysis, seizures and swelling.


Home Remedies? Urgent care treatment commences with sutures, tetanus shots, antibiotics and pain medications. Drugs to raise blood pressure and ease allied symptoms also may be indicated for the wounded.

Electric Shock

Electric Rays? They control their shock levels. Higher voltages push higher amps. Pizard's GURPS breaks down their electric jolts by victim size. Salt water is a good conductor, increasing death risks.


Open Water? Electrocytes generate electric fish pulses. These cigar-shaped or disk-like modified muscle cells are arranged in columns within electric organs. Charges radiate from rays' head area to their dorsal areas.


Similar Shock Ability? Electric catfish and electric eels present grave dangers to handlers. They do poorly in captivity. Electric fish potency has been tested throughout the ages for curative and torture treatments.

Power House

Unique to Fish The electric organ is found only in fish. It has evolved to suit environments ranging from the flooded Amazon forests to murky marine environments. This power may aid in human health research.


Biomedical Research? Electric rays have scientific value. Their electric channels and receptors simulate the human nervous system. Because the declining populations have no commercial use, by-catches are killed.


In Parallel? Electric fish gave rise to electric batteries. Italian physicist Alessandro Volta produced the first continuous current source. His invention developed from research into animal electric cells and connections.

Different Delivery Systems

Mouth to Hand? Snakes and spiders are biters. Some toads and frogs ooze poison through their skin. Cone snails have toxic tongues. Contact with these animals can sicken or kill. Poison can travel from hand to mouth.


Spiny Predators? COTS have long, sharp, venomous spines. This predator is killing off the coral upon which it dines. It can puncture a wet suit, causing pain, nausea and vomiting. The toxic spine requires surgical removal.


Jellyfish? These ancient creatures have no brains, no heads, no fins and no backbones. Tail-like tentacles contain the venom. It continues working after they tear apart and die. Few box jellyfish victims return to shore.

Thorny Problems

Noxious Nettle? Needle-covered leaves and stems of the stinging nettle send irritating chemicals into the skin of people and animals. Roman soldiers beat themselves with this plant. The suffering kept them awake for battle.


Suicide Tree? Australia's Gympie-Gympie stinging tree, or pain bush, is covered with venomous needles. Contact causes excruciating pain to victims. Suicide has been used as a last recourse for relief.


Invasive Plant? It is illegal to plant the giant hogweed in Britain. Contact with the plant's toxic sap causes severe skin burns and blindness. When broken stems inject toxins into blood streams, death can be instant.

No Venom or Poison

The World's Deadliest Beast? WHO provides an Executive Summary of Insect-Borne Diseases. Mosquitoes have no venom. They kill several million people and sicken hundreds of millions each year. They should be feared.


Saliva Only the female mosquitoes bite. Mosquito saliva released into the wound contains an anticoagulant. Blood flows easily making the victim less likely to notice the feeding activity.


Diseases Transmitted Mosquito saliva also can carry disease-causing viruses that cause disease, including Dengue Fever, Encephalitis, Malaria, West Nile and Zika. Mosquito-caused illness requires medical attention.