Venomous fish have evolved many ways to inflict pain | Science News

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Venomous fish have evolved many ways to inflict pain

There may be compounds in fish venoms that have medicinal uses

By
11:30am, April 19, 2017
fish

SEA OF HURT  A venomous reef stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa) is camouflaged as a rock in the Indian Ocean. Stings from the spines of this species are very painful.

Biologist Leo Smith held an unusual job while an undergraduate student in San Diego. Twice a year, he tagged along on a chartered boat with elderly passengers. The group needed him to identify two particular species of rockfish, the chilipepper rockfish and the California shortspine thornyhead. Once he’d found the red-orange creatures, the passengers would stab themselves in the arms with the fishes’ spines.

Doing so, the seniors believed, would relieve their aching arthritic joints. Smith, now at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, didn’t think much of the practice at the time, but now he wonders if those passengers were on to something. Though there’s no evidence that anything in rockfish venom can alleviate pain — most fish stings are, in fact, quite painful themselves — some scientists suspect fish venom is worth a look. Studying the way venom molecules from diverse fishes inflict pain might help researchers understand how nerve cells

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