What kind of sea creature stung me?

A few years ago, I went to Galveston and did a little swimming in the gulf. The waves were getting pretty high and I was having fun even though I was standing on rocks. Suddenly I felt the worst stinging sensation I’d ever felt, like the mother of all scorpions had planted its stinger into the side of my foot. I walked out of the water and looked and there was a cut about an inch long bleeding considerably. It felt pretty deep too, like I’d been stabbed with a knife. So I sat on the beach rocks for a few minutes and a deep pain came over me, causing me to almost forget everything around me. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever hurt that much. When my friend finally got out of the water (he didn’t know I’d been stung), I had to get him to do the driving since I didn’t think I could pay attention to the road. We got some hydrogen peroxide to pour on it, and the pain decreased after a while, but persisted for the rest of the day. After that, it was a little tender (like a bad bruise) for a week or two, but eventually there was only a scar. I haven’t been back since. So what kind of organism could have done this? I’ve been thinking it was a sea urchin but it seems odd that one would leave an incision instead of a round wound. Of course I live several hours from the beach so I know little about it. What can I wear as protection from such monsters without looking like a doof?

There is really no way of telling what that creature was. The portugese man of war has some long tentacles that leave strange looking wounds on people. (I have been stung once in florida.) It was probably some kind of jelly fish, or an anemonea that drifted past your leg.

Thier are lots of fashionable wet-suits that will probably protect you from this sort of thing. I googled, and got this at first: http://www.drippinwetswimwear.co.uk/wetsuits.html

I’m no marine biologist, but it sounds a bit like a jellyfish to me. How deep was the incision?

I didn’t think jellyfish could actually cut into you. There were a lot of them in deeper waters though floating on the water. I didn’t exactly prod the incision to see how deep it was, but it felt rather deep and bled for a while. In fact, I’m fairly certain it cut into the muscle because of how hard it was to walk. (It stung me on the arch of my foot just below the ankle, where that lump of muscle is.)

I think we can rule out urchins. They poke into your foot and leave the remnats of their spine (purple or black)
What about a stingray?

I don’t know enough about stingrays to say if that sounds like the perpetrator. Are they poisonous? I’m pretty sure whatever got me was, because it didn’t hurt much as I was walking out of the water, but after a few minutes it became severe. Do sting rays hang out in 3 to 4 foot deep water?

Sounds like a stingray to me, although you wouldn’t get stung just standing there. Were you wading through the water at the time and perhaps step on a stingray?

Wading in stingray country requires the “stingray shuffle”- don’t lift your feet off the bottom, just slide them along the bottom. Rays don’t (usually) sting when nudged in the side, they just swim off. It’s pressure on their backs (the top side) that will trigger the reflex to whip their dagger-like tail.

I haven’t heard of stingrays living off Galveston, but apparently they are there. Here’s what UTMB has to say about treating stingray strikes.

Portugese Man 'o War stings can really hurt (it feels like a nest of wasps stung you wherever the tendril touches), but they don’t puncture the skin.

I’m originally from Galveston, and I’m personally more wary of blue crabs. I’ve heard of people getting toes cut off by big crabs.

I’ve been to a Texas beach once. A man o’ war got me.

I don’t understand why anyone goes in the water.

Feh! Americans and their cute lil’ bitey things… :wink:

Box Jellyfish


Blue Ringed Octopus

:smiley: :smiley:

You’re right. I’d be extremely surprised if a sea jelly or ctenophore managed to break your skin and cause bleeding. I think you can probably rule those out.

You say you were standing on the rocks: if so, and urchin’s a good bet, and their spines won’t always stay in the wound.

Another possibility that others have mentioned would be a stingray, but out here in California, you’re far more likely to find rays in sandy bottoms than rocky areas. I guarantee there are rays in the Gulf of Mexico, I just don’t know if they’re likely to be the culprit. They do hang out in very shallow water, and many species have a venomous spine.

Are you sure it was a sting? A lot of corals have sharp edges and toxins that will cause considerable pain from the wound. You’d have to provide the motive force to cause the scrape yourself, though. (Never been to Galveston, so I don’t know how likely that is).

From the duration of the pain you describe, I’m guessing that the chances that a crab or bony fish did this are minimal.

But an urchin does not cut, it punctures. Like getting attacked by an ice pick, not going to leave a slash, a hole sure, but not a slash. That is why I said stingray.

I got nailed on the foot by a stingray this summer–the wound was pretty small, but it bled profusely. I would describe the initial pain as a couple levels above a bee sting; but it didn’t feel like fire shooting up my leg or anything. Kudos to the lifeguards, they knew just what to do: they put on a couple of gauze pads and then put a rubber glove over my foot to apply pressure.

They drove me down to the main lifeguard tower, and had me stick my foot in a bucket of water “as hot as you can stand it”. The venom is a protein, and the heat basically “curdles” it so it won’t spread. The pain from the hot water was more intense than the venom, but when I took my foot out of the bucket, it only took a second or two before it started throbbing in earnest. After a couple of hours, I managed to limp to my car, with only a band-aid to cover the sting. It was swollen and tender for a couple of days, and I have a small scar to remember that little stingray by.

I’d also add the possibility of scorpionfish stings – we have a few of them in the Gulf, they tend to hang out in rocks, although it sounds like the blistering and wound healing problems that can occur with one of those stings didn’t happen. Still, teaches you right for swimming in Galveston (ewww!). Just kidding.

But you forgot salt water crocs, did you not?

Sounds like a stingray. A friend of mine stepped on a stingray and received a sting/injury of exactly the type described in the OP.

Oh, you wanted BIG bitey things too? :smiley:


I echo what most others are saying…its sounds almost for sure to be a stingray. Stingrays generally lay on the sand, but they can rest on a rock…you might have been going from the rocks to the sand etc…and if you were in the surf, jumping over waves etc…then you could have easily stepped on one.

Lots of creatures sting…stonefish, coneshell, crown of thorns etc…but the fact that you had a bleeding wound negates all of these…because you said you were in rocks, i could almost venture to say an eel bit you, but that is bizarre, since I have never heard of an eel biting someone if it wasnt being molested.

stingray all the way dude.

I was letting the waves toss me back and forth. I wasn’t really going anywhere overall, but I was moving my feet around. Also, the sting actually came just a split second after I put my foot down, so the sting ray theory does sound more likely than me stepping on something stationary.

Yes, I’m quite sure it was a sting (or a stab or poke or something). In addition to what I said above, I was stepping rather lightly because the rocks were kind of jagged themselves. I was in deep enough water that most of my weight was displaced by boyancy. I think corals can pretty much be ruled out.

So it seems the popular opinion is stingray, and I have no reason to disagree. With my limited knowledge of marine biology, I always figured it was sea urchins, but stingrays do seem to fit the circumstances better. Thanks guys.

An urchin certainly can leave a cut - If you put your foot or hand right down on top of one, you’ll get a puncture wound, but a glancing blow can leave a small cut instead. Picture putting your hand down right next to an urchin, and you only catch the end of the spine sideways instead of straight into your hand.