What kind of sea creature stung me?

I was with a couple of friends, boating on a river near Sydney, when one of my friends got stung while she was out in the shallows. We didn’t know what it was or how to deal with it, but it turned out it was a stingray sting. We took her to the nearest hospital, while she writhed around in agony. We gave her a cold compress, which turned out to be the opposite of what you’re supposed to do, but we had no idea.

The biggest problem is the sting may be buried in your leg, which can work its way throughout your body and cause all sorts of problems. But if that didn’t happen, bathing your wound in hot water is the best way to relieve the sting.

  1. When I lived down there, it was common knowledge that stingrays inhabited the Gulf facing beaches.

  2. Amen to this. Leaves welts, no cuts.

It could’ve been a sting ray. Just like insect stings, people react differently (speed, severity, lasting effects) to the same attacks. One of the most painful things that ever happened to me in Galveston’s water was stepping on a hardhead (nasty little catfish) and having it fin me. Stuck that damn dorsal spiney thing deep into the bottom of my foot. Stuck so good, I had to reach down and pull it out. Hurt real bad. (I kept the damn fish to take with me to the doctor) Ended up with severe swelling and a bit of fever. Doctor gave me a tetnus booster, iirc, and/or put me on antibiotics (been a while, memory fuzzy*).

Bottom line and the real reason for this post: Next time, get to a doctor, please. You never know what crap can get into your body from an animal wound.

*like my back

Add me in as another person who says it was probably a stingray. They definitely live down in Galveston Bay – as a kid, one of the first water safety tips I learned was to always shuffle one’s feet when walking in the water to scare off any stingrays that might have been hanging around. And when one is stung by one, they leave cuts, rather than punctures or welts.

For protection from stingrays, the best thing to do is to shuffle rather than step in the water. Stingrays have no desire to hang around a large clumsy oafish animal like us, and so will happily swim away if your foot comes at them horizontally. It’s when you step on one that their tail lashes up and you get stung.

I read your post twice, at first i was going to say sting ray. But the deep cut and the bleeding made me re-think.

I don’t think you were stung at all, just cut deeply.

The initial pain you felt, you described as “like I’d been stabbed with a knife” There are lots of things that live naturally in the sea that could do that. Add to that broken bottles and the like and it gets likely that a soft footed dude treading coral in his bare feet gets cut.

The secondary reaction is most likely shock.

Stingrays don’t actually sting. They whip with their tail, which has a sharp blade-like spine on it, leaving a deep cut or laceration rather than a puncture. This page has a good close-up illustration of a stingray barb.

I hate to correct you, but that’s wrong on two levels. First of all, it is a “sting” in the sense that venom is delivered. Secondly, you can either get slashed or punctured by a stingray. Note the point at the end of the stingray’s spine. Note also the instructions in your link for removing bits of spine that might be left in the wound.

Meet the Sculpin…
A redish rock fish with spiny-thornlike fins filled with toxic-poisonous heat-seeking pain with a bad attitude. They hate humans and I have seen countless parents stung trying to remove the fish from hooks. I also have been victimized and the best antidote is a bucketful of the hottest soapy water you can stand. The fiery pain will immediately subside.

Yes, but venom is not injected. That’s what makes a sting a sting. The venom merely coats the spine.

While the spine is physically capable of going in end-first, the resulting wound will not be what most people would call a puncture wound – it’s going to be ragged and torn, rather than a neat, deep hole. The bits of spine that are left are due to the barbs on the spine, which get caught in flesh and pulled off as the spine is dragged through the skin. The manner of injury is not like that caused by a bee sting or a poke from a catfish spine.

Having seen one up close, I disagree. It’s like a stab wound from a knife, which I would certainly call a “puncture.”

Having been a dive instructor, and lifeguard on the beaches in San Diego for a few years when I was younger, and a surfer for over 30 years… Id still go with a stingray. Its the combination of both the bleeding cut and the intense stinging pain that sells it. Ive seen stingray wounds quite a few times…and it sure sounds like it. Snailboy, another indication, if you can remember, is how fast did it heal…and what the wound looked like a few days after. The toxin from the ray makes it quite hard to heal and many people require antibiotics… or even in the end, skin grafts. Its hard to say after all these years, and stepping on glass, or a sharp barnacle etc could all have been a culprit, but again, due to your description Id still say a stingray.

anyway for your pleasure:

stingray wound:

Texas fisherman here. Particularly in the Gulf, from Galveston down to Corpus Christi.

One option that hasn’t been mentioned is a Hardhead catfish. They are prolific in Galveston and often can be found residing near or on rocks. They have a venomous dorsal fin that causes pain and swelling if stepped on or even bumped with your foot. Their fins are sharp enough that they can cut through the rubber and leather of a sneaker. I have not doubt just bumping one (which I have) can cause a nasty and deep wound.


I don’t think a stingray is likely. You don’t mentioned if you set your foot down, then it stung you or if you were standing for a period of time then got stung. I think by the way you described it you were standing there and got stung. A stingray is unlikely to sting you unless you stepped on it. I have stepped on flounders and stingrays and the feeling unmistakable. I am also an avid SCUBA diver and snorkeler and I have never seen stingrays resting on rocks, especially if there is a current (which I know gulf side of Galveston has). You could have set your foot down on a passing stingray but considering the ratio of Hardheads to stingrays and that you were not in a stingray preferred habitat I would say a Hardhead is more likely.


Not read post #22?

Come on people, it’s GQ! Read the posts.


Well gee whiz, sorry ClueBoy. Thanks for your understanding at my oversight.


Well, over reaction on my part. Apologies.
In my defense, I injured a friend of mine playing football this afternoon and I’m in a pissy mood. Your detailed points were very valid.

Now to go piss in some MPSIMS thread…

Stingrays, like flounders can rest anywhere…but they do prefer the sand.

There are some good first hand accounts on both of these creatures on this site:

and thanks to Jsmith, coming from California I wasnt really aware of this type of catfish…now I know

both seem very likely to be the culprit…

but again, snailboy, if the wound took a long, long time to heal, Id say a stingray (thats always what ive seen) and if not, then maybe Jsmith hit the nail on the "broad"head

No hard feelings. I was skimming the posts a little too quickly and was eager to jump in with my 2 cents. I agree that hardheads are nasty little fish.

The ecology here in the 'States must be fairly baffling to Aussies, I expect. Unbelievable as it may sound, we have animals here that don’t immediately try to kill you. In fact, most non-Australian fauna exhibit this behavior. Science has yet to provide a compelling explanation for why the Australian environment produces monstrous aberrations like the koala, a creature whose entirely illusory cuteness acts to lure helpless children into its embrace before disemboweling them with its claws to extract eucalyptus cough drops from their esophagus. Even otherwise humble animals such as the rabbit and mouse transform into savage demons when introduced to Australia, so it seems that something in the local environment is to blame.

Obviously the Australian version of the OP would have run along these lines:

I don’t think the hardhead catfish is a likely culprit. I’ve taken a couple of hits from these critters myself. Very painful, but it’s a needle-like spine that leaves a small-ish hole. Doesn’t fit the one-inch wide, deep wound described in the OP.

Still sounds like a stingray to me.

I wonder if somewhere on the fishternet if there’s a bunch of hardheads, stingrays, and ultra intelligent jagged rodks debating what the hell kind of freaky creature it was that almost crushed it?