Envenomation is the process by which venom is injected into some animal by the bite (or sting) of a venomous animal. Many kinds of animals, including mammals (e.g., the Northern Short-tailed Shrew, Blarina brevicauda), reptiles (e.g., the King Cobra), spiders (e.g., Black widows), insects (e.g., wasps, honey bees and caterpillars), employ venom for hunting and for self defense. Most venoms are administered by biting the skin of the victim, but some venoms are applied externally, especially to sensitive tissues such as those that surround the eyes. In some reptiles, such as the Gila monster, venom in the saliva enters prey through bites of grooved teeth, but many animals have specialized organs such as hollow teeth and tubular stingers (fangs) that penetrate the prey's skin after which muscles attached to the attacker's venom reservoir forcibly squirt venom deep within the victim's body tissue. Sometimes death may occur as a result of bites or stings.
The family Scorpaenidae represents a large array of fish characterized by the ability to envenomate with various types of specialized spines. This group of fish is responsible for the second most common piscine envenomation, after stingrays.
Unfortunately, this family of fish has a confusing variety of common names, which tends to hinder accurate field identification, classification, and understanding of envenomation. It is helpful to consider the Scorpaenidae family as 3 distinct groups, based upon their venom organ structure and toxicity.
These 3 groups and their representative genera include the following:
* Pterois - Long, slender spines with small venom glands and a less potent sting (eg, lionfish,
zebrafish, butterfly cod). Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have long, slender spines with small
venom glands, and they have the least potent sting of the Scorpaenidae family.
* Scorpaena - Shorter and thicker spines with larger venom glands and a more potent sting
(eg, scorpionfish, bullrout, sculpin). Scorpionfish (genus Scorpaena) have shorter, thicker
spines with larger venom glands than lionfish do, and they have a more potent sting.
* Synanceia - Stout, powerful spines with highly developed venom glands and a potentially
fatal sting (eg, stonefish). Stonefish (genus Synanceia) have short, stout spines with highly
developed venom glands, and they have a potentially fatal sting.