Stingrays, or stingarees, are very flat fish with a long whiplike tail near the base of which is a sharp jagged stinger. These fish have earned an evil reputation which is at least partially deserved, but the chances are that they are not deliberately vicious.
But are stingrays really dangerous? Yes, stingrays are very dangerous with their long spine or barb as their only weapon. The barb injects poison into the feet of someone who steps on it. It can cause the permanent failure of the limb.
They habitually lie partially buried in the sand and will naturally defend themselves if someone steps upon their backs. Their only weapon of defense is the long spine or stinger which they know too well how to use. The jagged wound inflicted by the barb of a stingray may be quite serious.
Aside from the usual danger of infection, there is the fact that the barb releases into the wound a poison secreted by a gland connected to the spine. The effects of the sting frequently persist for weeks or months, and in some instances, permanent injury to a limb has resulted.
Tropical species are probably more dangerous than those found in temperate regions. I do not know of any cases of death from the sting of a stingaree in temperate regions, but some cases are known in tropical regions. Most stingrays are marine, but a freshwater species in the Amazon River seems to be about as dangerous as any.
Richard Schomburgk, an early South American explorer, had several experiences with these fish. Two of his native helpers were stung by stingrays, and in both instances, the n1en suffered excruciating pain and had violent convulsions.
Although the wounds were treated at once, the fives of the men were saved only with difficulty. Several days later, Schomburgk was visiting at an estate when one of the laborers was stung, and although the man was young and vigorous he died in convulsions sometime later.
Other explorers have reported similar experiences. Other fish that have dangerous venomous spines include the scorpion fish and the weaver fish. These have poison glands connected to spines along their backs, and a few persons have died as a result of stepping on them or handling them incautiously.
Both these fish live in the ocean. There are many other fish that have venomous spines, but most of them are not dangerous to life. Common examples include the spiny dogfish, a marine form, and various catfishes that are found in both fresh and salt water.