Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801


Other Names: Stonefish

A Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa, on Mantis Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, October 2005. Source: Erik Schlogl / iNaturalist.org. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial

Summary:

A variably-coloured pale to dark brown, orange or pink stonefish, with warty, scaleless skin, fleshy pectoral fins, and a deep pit behind and a smaller pit below each eye.

Stonefish are superbly camouflaged ambush predators and are extremely difficult to spot. Along with the Estuarine Stonefish, Synanceia horrida, they are considered to be the most venomous of fishes, and a sting can be excruciatingly painful and even fatal. 

Video of a Reef Stonefish in the Kimberley.

Video of Reef Stonefish in the Solomon Islands and Fiji.

Video about Reef Stonefish and their venom.


Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Synanceia verrucosa in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 Sep 2020, http://136.154.202.208/home/species/3341

Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801

More Info


Distribution

Shark Bay and offshore reefs of Western Australia, around the tropical north to Woolgoolga, New South Wales; also Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean, and the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific: Red Sea, East Africa, east to Micronesia and French Polynesia, north to southern Japan, south to Australia, New Caledonia, Tonga and the Austral Islands; recently recorded from the Mediterranean Sea. 
Individuals or small groups inhabit coral and rocky reefs, often under ledges and in caves. They also use their large pectoral fins to partly bury themselves in sand or rubble on the reef flat during the day. At low tide, they may shelter in tidepools on the reef flat.

Features

Dorsal fin XIII-XIV (usually XIII), 5-7; Anal fin III, 5-6; Pectoral fin 17-19.

Head broad, depressed; eyes small, directed upward, slightly elevated on the head; each eye with a deep pit behind the eyes, and a smaller pit below the eyes; mouth large, opening dorsally, gape vertical; skin naked, covered in warty skin.

Dorsal-fin spines strong, sharp, about equal in length, each in a thick sheath of skin with a venom gland at base; pectoral fins large, fleshy.   

Feeding

Nocturnal carnivore - an ambush predator that feeds on fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods.

Remarks

Stonefish are considered to be the most venomous of fishes. Each stout dorsal-fin spine has a groove linked to two venom glands at its base. Rather than fleeing when disturbed, the stonefish usually remains very still, perhaps erecting the dorsal fin for protection. When an unwary victim accidentally steps on the fish, the spines act like hypodermic syringes, forcing venom into puncture wounds.

The venom affects the cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. The sting is excruciatingly painful and even may prove fatal unless the victim is administered antivenom. Although no deaths from stonefish stings have been recorded in Australia since the arrival of Europeans, deaths have been reported from elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific.

Similar Species

The Estuarine Stonefish, Synanceia horrida, differs in having the eyes well elevated on the head, with a deep pit behind the eyes and a deep pit below each eye (vs. eyes only slightly elevated on the head, with a deep pit behind the eyes and a smaller pit below each eye in the Reef Stonefish).

Species Citation

Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider, 1801, Systema Ichthyol.: 195, pl. 45. Type locality: India.

Author

Bray, D.J. 2020

Resources

Atlas of Living Australia

Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801

References


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21.

Allen, G.R. & Steene, R.C. 1988. Fishes of Christmas Island Indian Ocean. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 197 pp.

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.

Bleeker, P. 1863. Onzième notice sur la faune ichthyologique de l'île de Ternate. Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor de Dierkunde 1: 228-238 (as Synanceichthys verrucosus)

Bloch, M.E. & Schneider, J.G. 1801. Systema Ichthyologiae Iconibus ex Illustratum. Berlin 584 pp. 110 pls. See ref at BHL

Church, J.E. & Hodgson, W.C. 2002. The pharmacological activity of fish venoms. Toxicon 40: 1083–1093.

Edelist, D., Spanier, E. & Golani, D. 2011. Evidence for the occurrence of the Indo-Pacific stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa (Actinopterygii: Scorpaeniformes: Synanceiidae), in the Mediterranean Sea. Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria 41(2): 129–131. PDF DOI: 10.3750/AIP2011.41.2.09

Eschmeyer, W.N., in Paxton, J.R. & W.N. Eschmeyer (eds). 1994. Encyclopedia of Fishes. Sydney: New South Wales University Press; San Diego: Academic Press. 240 pp.

Eschmeyer, W.N. & Rama-Rao, K.V. 1973. Two new stonefishes (Pisces : Scorpaenidae) from the Indo-west Pacific, with a synopsis of the subfamily Synanceiinae. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 39(18): 337-382 figs 1-13. See ref at BHL

Gill, A.C. & Reader, S.E. 1992. Fishes. pp. 90-93, 193-228 in Hutchings, P. (ed.)  Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific. Canberra : Australian National Parks Vol. 3, Kowari 230 pp.

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp. (as Synanceichthys verrucosus)

Grobecker, D.B. 1983. The 'lie-in-wait' feeding mode of a cryptic teleost, Synanceia verrucosa. Environmental Biology of Fishes 8(3/4): 191-202.

Halstead, B.W., Auerbach, P.S. & Campbell, D.R. 1990. A colour atlas of dangerous marine animals. Wolfe Medical Publications Ltd, W.S. Cowell Ltd, Ipswich, England. 192 pp.

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S.J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Checklist and new records of Christmas Island fishes: the influence of isolation, biogeography and habitat availability on species abundance and community composition. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 184–202 https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/rbz/supplement-no-30/

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S .J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Fishes of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands: new records, community composition and biogeographic significance. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 203–219 https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/rbz/supplement-no-30/

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Michael, S.W. 1998. Reef Fishes. Volume 1. A guide to their identification, behaviour, and captive care. Microcosm 624 pp.

Motomura, H., Matsuura, K. & Khan, M. 2018. Synanceia verrucosa. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T114180058A116389039. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T114180058A116389039.en. Downloaded on 21 February 2020.

Ngo, S.Y.A., Ong, S.H.J. & Ponampalam, R. 2009. Stonefish envenomation presenting to a Singapore hospital. Singapore Medical Journal 50(5): 506–509.

Poss, S.G. 1999. Families Scorpaenidae, Caracanthidae, Aploactinidae. pp. 2291-2358 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 2069-2790 pp.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Smith, W.L., Everman, E. & Richardson, C. 2018. Phylogeny and taxonomy of flatheads, scorpionfishes, sea robins, and stonefishes (Percomorpha: Scorpaeniformes) and the evolution of the lachrymal saber. Copeia 106(1): 94–119. https://doi.org/10.1643/CG-17-669

Smith, W.L. & W.C. Wheeler. 2006. Venom evolution widespread in fishes: a phylogenetic rode map for the bioprospecting of piscine venoms. Journal of Heredity 97(3): 206-217. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esj034

Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37287089

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Extremely venomous spines

Depth:0-20 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:40 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map