Disguise in Nature: A 'stone' with dangerous venom
By Xu Chenlu

Summer is the perfect time to visit the beach. However, when immersing yourself in the cool ocean water, you should be cautious about the dangers that may be lurking amid the rocks you're stepping on. The stonefish is one of these hidden dangers. A master of disguise, stepping on this fish with venom-filled dorsal spines will result in a painful sting that could lead to death.

The stonefish gets its common name from its habitat and appearance. Its mottled skin can perfectly camouflage it as a stone, hence when it is resting under or between the corals or reefs, it does not worry about being hunted.

A resting stonefish. /VCG

A resting stonefish. /VCG

Besides camouflage, it also utilizes another form of self-protection, which involves the needle-like fin spines on its back. When it is disturbed, the fish will inject venom into whatever steps on it. A study in 2018 reported that stonefish can even extend a specialized spine as an additional defense mechanism.

Watch out for the dangerous stonefish! /VCG

Watch out for the dangerous stonefish! /VCG

A stonefish sting is extremely painful and dangerous, and can sometimes lead to death. Thus, areas where stonefish are distributed, like the Philippines, Australia, China and Japan, will have warnings during summer to alert swimmers and divers to avoid the well-camouflaged stonefish.

About the 'Disguise in Nature' series

Camouflage and mimicry are two ways for creatures to disguise themselves. Disguises can either help them escape danger, or make them perfect predators when hunting.

In this series, we look at several species that are masters of disguise. For each story, there will be a game of hide-and-seek with the introduced species. 

Read more from the 'Disguise in Nature' series:

Disguise in Nature: The colorful 'kung fu masters'

Disguise in Nature: The 'ninja' in sea

Disguise in Nature: The forest's 'night hunter'

Disguise in Nature: The 'hermit' in rainforest

Disguise in Nature: A lively 'leaf' with legs

(Cover image and information image all via VCG, designed by CGTN's Yin Yating. Quiz image designed by CGTN's Feng Yuan.)

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at nature@cgtn.com.)

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