© Joseph Dougherty. All rights reserved.
Scorpaena guttata Girard, 1854
California Scorpionfish aka Spotted Scorpionfish
Channel Islands, CA.
Like many other scorpionfish, this species has venom in its spines. Once called "one of the most noxious marine animals in California waters," this fish has been responsible for many human injuries. Fishermen are often affected when trying to remove the fish from a hook; when pulled from the water, the fish flares the spines on its fins and gill covers, making it difficult to handle. The spines themselves are sharp enough to inflict substantial wounds, but the venom can cause a number of additional symptoms. The pain of the sting issaid to feel much like a rattlesnake bite, though the systemic effects are not usually as dangerous. A spine prick to the finger was reported by one victim to cause a severe, throbbing pain and cyanosis of the digit, which became swollen and hard, then hot and red, then numb. Pain traveled up the arm to the axilla, which developed painful masses. Systemic symptoms included nausea and a feeling of faintness, and the skin was cool, clammy, and pale. In two weeks the victim had recovered. Another victim developed pericarditis from an envenomation.
Each spine has two longitudinal grooves which are filled with epithelial tissue that contains venom-secreting glands. The spine is sheathed in a thin membrane. As the spine enters the victim, the membrane sheath is pushed back, helping to inject the venom into the victim. The venom is cardiotoxic, in laboratory studies producing fluctuations in blood pressure and EKG changes such as ventricular tachycardia and bundle branch block.