The deadly stingray

Published October 31, 2009

There are many more mysteries in the sea than man has discovered. And there are many creatures in the deep dark waters that we know little about, but we do know that they can be as dangerous as the ferocious predators of the forest.

Let's look at stingrays, one of the mysteries of the seas that people paid little attention to until our dear 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin, was killed by one in 2006, off the coast of Australia, while filming one of these creatures. He loved to play with deadly animals and while none of the ones on land, like crocodile and snakes, could overpower him, this generally taken as a docile creature, hit him in the chest with its deadly tail and the spear-like barb at the end, packed with venom, went right into Irwin's heart.

Stingrays are mostly without dorsal fins and live in warm, topical regions of the sea. When the climate gets cooler, they move deeper into the waters and they rummage at the sea bottom.

Stingrays have a flat, triangular shaped body with a tapering tail that have one or two spines (spear-like ends). The spine is sharp with serrated edges, or barbs, that face the body of the fish. At the base of the spine is the venom gland, and a membrane-like sheath that covers the entire sting. To attack, it simply flips its tail upward over its body to strike — so it is always facing its victim when attacking. When the sting enters the victim's body, the protective sheath tears and the sharp, serrated edges of the spine sink in and venom is secreted.

Stingrays are generally not aggressive and only attack if they feel threatened or attacked. The venom is extremely painful but not always deadly. There have been rare reported cases of stingray-related fatalities in humans. The injuries are mostly in the leg and ankle area when someone has accidentally stepped on them lying hidden at the seabed. When the wound is in the ankle, if treated quickly, the damage can be limited and amputation is only required if not treated in time. But when the victim is hit in the chest, the venom can cause damage to the vital organs in the chest, leading to death.

— Rehan Jalal

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