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Synanceia verrucosa Hennig.jpg
Type species Synanceia verrucosa, 1801 illustration
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Synanceiidae
Genus: Synanceia
Bloch and J. G. Schneider, 1801

Synanceia is a genus of fish of the family Synanceiidae, the stonefishes, whose members are venomous, dangerous, and even fatal to humans. It is one of the most venomous fish known. [1][2] They are found in the coastal regions of the Indo-Pacific.

Habitat and characteristics[edit]

Synanceia are primarily marine, though some species are known to live in rivers. Its species have potent neurotoxins secreted from glands at the base of their needle-like dorsal fin spines which stick up when disturbed or threatened.[3] The vernacular name of the species, the stonefish, derives from the stonefish's ability to camouflage itself with a grey and mottled color similar to the color of a stone.[4] Swimmers may not notice them, and may inadvertently step on them, triggering a sting. When the stonefish is disturbed, it may inject an amount of venom proportional to the amount of pressure applied to it.[citation needed]They are known to be in "Warner"


The type species of the genus is Synanceia verrucosa, and it includes the species Synanceia horrida that Linnaeus described as Scorpaena. The authors of Synanceia are Marcus Elieser Bloch and Johann Gottlob Schneider in the latter's republication of Systema Ichthyologiae iconibus cx illustratum (Illustrated catalog of Fishes), in 1801. The description was accompanied by an illustration by J. F. Hennig. The misspelling Synanceja is regarded as a synonym for this genus.


Synanceia verrucosa in a public aquarium

The following is a list of species in the genus:[5]

Treatment of envenomation[edit]

Stonefish stings are both potentially lethal and extremely painful.[6] The two most recommended treatments include the application of heat to the affected area and antivenom. People have used hot water (at a temperature no lower than 45 °C (113 °F)) applied to the injured area which has been found to destroy stonefish venom, and causes minimal discomfort to the victim. For more extreme cases, antivenom has been used. Vinegar can be found on some Australian beaches where there are frequent cases of people stepping on these fish, as the vinegar is said to lessen the pain.[7]

Stonefish stings in Australia[edit]


Stonefish stings in Australia can cause envenomation and death if not treated. The stonefish is one of the most venomous fish in the world[8] and when stepped on by a human forces venom into the foot. Most stonefish stings occur as a result of stepping on the creature while it is less common for the fish to sting when it is picked up.[9] Stonefish stings can occur on the beach, not just in the water, with stonefish being able to stay out of the water for up to 24 hours. They often cannot be easily seen as they look similar to rocks or coral. Stonefish antivenom is the second-most administered in Australia.[10]

Aborigines know of the venom of the stonefish and have corroborees which involve re-enacting death from someone who trod on the fish. The Aborigines of Northern Australia and the Great Barrier Reef have different ways of preparing the fish for eating to avoid poisoning.[11]

After stonefish envenomation, the amount of anti-venom given depends on the number of puncture wounds from the stonefish spines.[12]

Number of incidents[edit]

1936 article from Melbourne newspaper The Argus about venomous stonefish.

There were 25 cases of the use of antivenom for stonefish reported to Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for a one-year period between July 1989 and June 1990, with most from Queensland and four from the Northern Territory.[13] There were 14 calls to the Queensland Poisons Information System in 2008 regarding stonefish poison.[14]

Fatal incidents[edit]

Name, age Date Species Location
Dr Joseph Leathom Wassell 7 April 1915 Thursday Island[15][16][17]

Non-fatal incidents[edit]

Some notable non-fatal incidents which have appeared in reliable sources are listed below:

Name, age Date Species Location
12-year-old girl 2007 Mooloolaba, Queensland[18]
3-year-old boy October 2004 Moreton Island[19]
29-year-old man July 2015 Indonesia[20]
Matt Wong August 2015 Mauritius[21]

As food[edit]

Though Synanceia are venomous and dangerous to human beings, they are actually consumed as food in some parts of Asia, including south Japan, south Fujian and Guangdong in China, and Hong Kong. Their venom is harmless after heating. In the Hokkien-speaking area, they are considered delicacies and good for health. The meat of Synanceia is white, dense and sweet, and the skin is also edible. They are usually cooked with ginger into a clear soup, and sometimes served raw as sushi or sashimi.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Smith, M.M. & Heemstra, P.C. (eds) 2003. Smiths' Sea Fishes ISBN 1-86872-890-0
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Notesthe robusta - Family Scorpaenidae". O'Connor,J. Southern Cross University. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  4. ^ Pocock, C.A. "Romancing the Reef: history, heritage and the hyper-real." James Cook University Ph.D. Thesis. 2003. Accessed 2009-06-14.
  5. ^ "Synanceia". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 28 December 2008. 
  6. ^ Rebecca, Sarah. "The Most Excruciating Pain Known To Man." Scienceray. (29 Dec 2010): 1. Print.
  7. ^ Taylor, G. (2000). "Toxic fish spine injury: Lessons from 11 years experience". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal 30 (1). ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  8. ^ Stonefish Envenomation, adventure medicine
  9. ^ CSL Stonefish Antivenom
  10. ^ Stone Fish slk320
  11. ^ The Poisonous Stone Fish Dreaded Denizen of the North The Argus 14 March 1936
  12. ^ Stonefish antivenom product information
  13. ^ Marine Bites and Stings Dr Mark Little
  14. ^ annual report 2008, Queensland Poisons Information Centre
  15. ^
  16. ^ The Poisonous Stone Fish Dreaded Denizen of the North The Argus 14 March 1936
  17. ^ Marine Bites and Stings Dr Mark Little
  18. ^ Close call with stonefish 2 February 2007
  19. ^ Stonefish poisons boy SMH Oct 11 2004
  20. ^ Stonefish poisons boy SMH Oct 11 2004
  21. ^ Close call with stonefish 2 February 2007

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]