The Amazing Flight of Little Ray displayed at 50% of viewport width
December 2018 by V. R. Duin


Little Ray was anything but dumb.
He began swinging like a pendulum.
Upside down, his spine was aimed wrong.
He could fix that — Little Ray was strong!
(The Amazing Flight of Little Ray)

A stingray stings with a stinging barb that may have stingray venom. It is called “stingray poison” by many people. In The Amazing Flight of Little Ray, there were no deadly or long-term effects.

Do not worry about the bird in this story. The tail spine of a young stingray is functional, but small and immature. Fish stories usually end well. Ancient use of this toxin may seem like another fish story.

Greek dentists used the protein-based toxin to numb pain. The ancient medicine quickly lost strength. Modern drugs have longer shelf lives. Stingrays are not killed to make today's plant-derived pharmaceuticals.

Marine venoms in low concentrations may aid cancer treatments. An article in NCBI of NLM discusses Antiproliferative activity of marine stingray Dasyatis sephen venom on human cervical carcinoma cell line.

Last Stand? Early warriors used stingray barbs on arrow, spear and dagger tips. Museums have vast collections on display. The tails made cruel whips. There now are laws against the use of these and other dangerous whips.

Animals can defeat humans. Sawfish sense and hunt prey with chainsaw-like blades. Their snouts puncture boats and cut deep into flesh. Survivors generally must submit to numerous surgeries.

Stingrays do not hunt with their stingers. When threatened, they strike in self-defense. As shown above, a stingray swings its tail over its body to sting. The cutting edges slash muscles and tendons like a butcher's knife.

Barbs are not uniform in appearance. Some are serrated. Others are not. Some are located in the middle of the tail. Others are located near the body of the fish. Some stingrays have several stacked stingers. Others are singular.

Stingrays control their tails, not their stingers. The stinging spines stiffen, but remain attached to the body. They are not shot like arrows from bows. Unhooking these venomous by-catches presents grave risks to fishermen.

Blocking the path of a stingray can be lethal. Australian naturalist, Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, may have obstructed an Australian bull ray. The large fish speared him multiple times in the chest, killing him.

Stephen Robert “Steve” Irwin's death was attributed to trauma and hemorrhaging, rather than to toxin. His family and documentaries co-hosted with his wife perpetuate his legacy and enthusiasm for wildlife.

The integumentary sheath covering the barb contains venom. It enters from a gland at the base of the tail. Upon striking, if the sheath breaks, venom is released. When it is forced into the victim, it acts like poison.

Recovery from injury can take years. Foot and Ankle Online Journal presents Stingray Envenomation of the Foot: a Case Report showing venom in 75% of stings, with tail stinger parts breaking off in only 5% of wounds.

Children and the elderly face greater death risks. The effects worsen with each penetration and over time with venom from stingrays. Victims may be airlifted from beaches for urgent medical intervention.

There is no antidote. Victims should be placed on their backs, feet higher than their heads, with tight clothing loosened. Remaining still slows the toxic spread. Drinks may cause choking. Soaking in hot water eases pain.

World-wide annual deaths from stingray stings average one or two. Injuries largely are made to feet or legs of waders in shallow water. Stingers of these bottom dwellers may break off, requiring surgical removal.

Stingray stings can be avoided. Entering and moving through the water with Little Ray's Stingray Shuffle movements typically scares them away. They probably do not want to waste their defense on careless humans.

Authorities are becoming proactive. National seashores are installing emergency-call boxes. Guard stations are stocking tourniquet kits. Tightened bands apply pressure to staunch blood flow and stop hemorrhaging.

The National Poison Control Center operates a 24/7 hot line. For information, risk assessment and treatment guidance subsequent to “poisonings” occurring in the United States, call 1-800-222-1222.

Home remedies are insufficient. Urgent care treatment commences with sutures, tetanus shots, antibiotics and medications for intense pain. Drugs may be indicated for wound care, to raise blood pressure and ease symptoms.

Symptoms include: blood loss, chills, cramps, delirium, diarrhea, difficulty or cessation of breathing, dizziness, fainting, fever, heart failure, hives, low blood pressure, nausea, paralysis, seizures and swelling.

Poison is swallowed. Venom is injected. An article published by the Accident and Emergency Department of the Welsh Poison Unit reports stepping on dead and rotting stingrays can cause stingray injury.

One devil ray species has venomous barbs. Devil Rays are the largest member of the manta family. Weighing up to a ton, these deep coastal dwellers may reach shallow waters.

Some sharks sting. Dogfish Sharks have noxious spines at the base of the dorsal fin. Although the painful stings can be cured, it is smart to avoid stinging creatures. Toxins can be virulent.

Mantas have no special defense equipment. These open sea dwellers have no stingers, venom or sharp teeth. Manta birostris is the scientific name for the giant oceanic manta ray. Their immense size may scare off attackers.

The horns on mantas are not used for fighting. Called cephalic lobes, they unfold to funnel food into their mouths. Devil rays also have these filter-feeding parts. The small alfredi species lives in coastal waters.

Electric rays control their shock levels. Pizard's GURPS gives a breakdown of electric jolt by victim size for Electric Rays. Salt water is a good conductor, increasing death risks as higher voltages push higher amps.

Electric fish pulses are generated by electrocytes. These modified muscle cells are arranged in columns within electric organs in the head and front of ray bodies. Charges radiate across their dorsal areas.

Electric catfish and electric eels have similar shock ability. They present dangers to handlers and do poorly in captivity. The potency of electric fish has been tested throughout the ages in curative and torture treatments.

Electric fish gave rise to electric batteries in parallel. Italian physicist Alessandro Volta is celebrated for the first source continuous current. His invention developed from research into animal electric cells and connections.

Electric rays remain of value in biomedical research. The channels and receptors of their electric organs are arranged like the human nervous system. Declining populations have no commercial use. Sadly, by-catches are killed.

Stingray power is superior to that of honey bees. They can keep attacking. After honey bees penetrate a mammal, they cannot safely pull out their stingers. This action rips off parts of their bodies, killing them.

Other bees, ants, hornets, yellow jackets, wasps and scorpions sting. They can sting repeatedly. This disables prey for easy eating. Allergic reactions resulting from the injections may produce fatal or lasting effects.

Toxin-delivery systems differ. Snakes and spiders are biters. Some toads and frogs ooze poison through their skin. Skin contact with one of these animals can sicken or kill. The poison travels from hand to mouth.

A group of sharks is called a “shiver”. People shiver to think of the damage they inflict. A group of stingrays is called a “fever”. Fever can result from infections caused by dirty water. Sharks are resistant to toxin and disease.

Jellyfish have venom in tentacles that look like tails. These ancient creatures have no brains, no heads, no fins and no backbones. Their toxin works after they tear apart and die. Few box jellyfish victims reach shore.

The world's deadliest creature has no venom. WHO provides an Executive Summary of Insect-Borne Diseases. Mosquitoes kill several million people and sicken hundreds of millions each year. They should be feared.