Stonefish (Synanceia Verrucosa) are one of the deadliest marine creatures in existence. Often brown or green in colour they blend in almost perfectly with their reef surroundings and are extremely difficult for divers and fish to spot. This ‘chance’ picture was taken at Maxwell’s dive site located at Taba Heights in Egypt. It’s very unusual to see Stonefish making any movement whatsoever unless they are about to strike.
This is part of their unique and deadly attack strategy. The passing Surgeon fish was totally oblivious and had no idea that the piece of coral it was about to nibble would in fact be a deadly predator. In just a split second the lurking creature opened its large mouth and created a vacuum so strong that the defenseless surgeon fish was literally sucked into the jaws of the rock like critter. The Stonefish has 13 spines running down its back (they can be clearly seen in the picture). These spines act as a defense mechanism against predators and sometimes snorkelers or divers tread on the fish or touch it by mistake. In this case the Stonefish always reacts defensively.
The venom causes severe pain, shock and can even be fatal if not treated immediately. Divers encountered this rare sight during an underwater photography workshop held at Waterworld diving centre. Unfortunately it was a wide angle dive so no one could get any close ups.
The fish was also sitting inside a coral outcrop making it difficult for anything but a ‘plan view’ picture, how inconsiderate! The photograph shows the 30cm long Stonefish halfway through eating its ‘whopper’ sized meal. The blue body and yellow tail fin of the Surgeon fish is all that is left visible.
Talking about stonefish, have a look at this fantastic sketch of Billy Connolly about the ‘Ouch-meter’ and a stonefish. Hilarious!