World's Most Venomous Fish Latches Onto Kayaker's Paddle

A deadly stonefish, the world's most venomous fish, wound up on the end of an unsuspecting kayaker's paddle during a leisurely day trip along an Australian creek.

A woman shared a snap of the fearsome fish atop a yellow paddle after her partner came across the creature while kayaking with a friend in North Queensland on Sunday.

"My partner and our friend were in the kayaks going to check our crab pots and they saw it swimming and one of them managed to scoop it up," Jennifer Taylor told Newsweek, adding the fish was found in a saltwater mangrove creek not too far from the ocean.

"Stonefish have venomous barbs which can kill you very quickly. They are considered the most venomous fish," the Queenslander added.

The fish are typically found lurking in the shallow coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Named for their stone-like camouflage, they are equipped with 13 needle-like spines capable of secreting venom that can be lethal, even to humans.

Stonefish on paddle
A woman shared a snap of the fearsome fish atop a yellow paddle after her partner came across the venomous creature while kayaking with a friend in North Queensland. Jennifer Taylor

Taylor posted a photo of the terrifying creature, found near Toolakea, north of Townsville, to the Australian Native Animals Facebook page. "Unfortunately I didn't get to see it but my partner and friend saw their first wild stone fish today!" she wrote, alongside a snap of the fish.

The post prompted hundreds of others to share their up-close encounters with the camouflaged sea creature.

"Had a friend step on one of these ugly things about 20 years ago - they were in hospital for three months, nearly died twice," one person said.

"They hurt so bad. l have had six of their spines in my foot. If l had a gun at the time l would have used it on myself," another man added.

The stonefish are expertly camouflaged to blend in with surrounding rocky reefs: an appearance many were quick to mistake for another brown item.

"Thought something took a crap on their paddle," one woman replied as another joked, "I thought you must have been up s*** creek but with a paddle."

"Ugly but deadly," another quipped. "Shows how easy it would be to step on one accidentally!"

A stonefish's highly toxic venom can induce symptoms including muscular paralysis, breathing difficulties, shock, and sometimes heart failure and death.

Typically, the fish stays motionless and buries itself in rocky reefs, posing a threat to swimmers who may unsuspectingly step on the creature mistaking it for part of the rocky ocean floor.

"Through its dorsal fin spines, the stonefish can inject a venom that is capable of killing an adult person in less than an hour," warns.

Pain from a stonefish attack is "immediate, excruciating and may last for many days", according to the Queensland Museum. "Muscular paralysis, breathing difficulties, shock, and sometimes heart failure and death can ensue."

A 2018 study published in the journal Copeia and conducted by scientists from the University of Kansas (KU) and the Field Museum in Chicago, revealed that stonefish have another fearsome and unique defense mechanism: specialized bones on the cheek just below each eye socket which work essentially like switchblades.

According to analysis of various specimens, the stonefish can control the spine-like bone, dubbed the "lachrymal saber," so that it extends outwards horizontally like a strange moustache or sits flush against its face, as well as other angles in between. The researchers think this feature, in addition to its other venomous spines, could help the stonefish avoid being eaten.

File photo: A Stonefish is pictured camouflaged against rocks in Sydney, Australia. The deadly fish has thirteen sharp dorsal spines on its back, which each have extremely toxic venom, which can cause tissue damage, respiratory distress, cardiovascular shock and even death. Ian Waldie/Getty Images