Work and World

Milking The WORLD’S MOST VENOMOUS FISH! – Smarter Every Day 117

Hey it’s me Destin, welcome back to Smarter Every Day. Sometimes I like to walk around in my yard barefooted, which is awesome until I hit a little sticky weed, which hurts. I’m about to ruin the beach for you. There’s an animal called the stonefish that is the meanest thing that I have ever seen. We’re gonna milk it, even though it doesn’t have nipples. Goggle up. Science is about to happen. [ music ] So this is the research aquarium here at James Cook University right? – Yep. This is where we’ve got everything that can bite and kill you. – OK cause you do what? What’s the word? Venomologist? – D’ahh. Toxinologist. – Toxinologist? – Destin how many times have we got to tell you this? – Toxinologist, Dr Jamie Seymour, grabbing a stonefish. – The most venomous fish in the world. – Most venomous fish in the world, with his hand. – Ahh. Just drain a bit of water. – So why are we not wearing leather gloves when we do this? – Probably because you can’t feel properly. – Oh OK. – Yeah it’s better you get a better feel for the fish. – OK, and so is the fish under stress right now? – No they can hold water up in their gills, so they can stay out of water for a couple of hours. – Really? – They’re inter-tidal animals, so they’re used to this sort of thing. – So they get kind of caught in pools and stuff. – Yes, and they’ll often get caught where the water’s drained out and then they’re away and running. So we’ll move our prop fish. See how the spines just whipped up then? – Yeah. – So that’s what we’re trying to look for. – That spine, there’s two spines. – Ahuh. There’s one there, there, there, there, there, there, there. All the way down the back. There’s 13 of them. And they’ve all got venom associated with them. – They all have venom sacs. – All of them, yep. A little hard to see because the animal’s got lumps and bumps all over him, but there’s a little lump on each of these spines, either side, so the spine comes up, there’s a venom sac there and there, as your foot or whatever comes down over the top of it, the spine goes into your foot, and there’s no venom sac until it gets about a third of the way down, and then what happens is your tissue compresses the venom sac and shoots it up along the spine which is now deeply embedded in your foot. – So it’s like stepping on a hypodermic needle that is upside down ready to squirt as soon as it has force applied. – Exactly. – OK that makes sense. – This is what we’re gonna use to stick over the spine of the stonefish so that’s gonna act like somebody’s foot. You’ve gotta get it the right thickness, so the spine will be like that and we’re gonna push this down over the top and it’ll squeeze the venom blades, and the venom will go boosh! – OK what do you do with the venom, as a toxinologist? – Ooh.. – I got it, I got it right! – Several things. One we’re trying to work out how it works, but one of the other things is we actually give it to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, who make an anti-venom for this thing. One of the most well used anti-venoms in Australia, because we probably get, I don’t know, seven, eight hundred, maybe a thousand people a year get stung by these things up the east coast of Australia. – Really? – Yeah. Someone’s gotta hold the fish and someone’s gotta put the thing down over its spine. – I can hold the fish, I ain’t scared. Am I capable of putting the rubber down over the spine? – It’s not hard. [laughs] – You do know me right? [laughs] – Ah maybe you should hold it then. Hold the fish like that. – Right. – And if he flicks, just hang onto him. – OK. I can do that. – I don’t think he’s gonna flick. I actually think we’ll use.. – I told my kids like when we’re doing stuff like this is hang on tight and don’t be scared. It’s like that here? – Exactly. Just remember if you let him go and I get nailed, I’m gonna so beat the crap out of you. – Alright. We’re gonna go 1920 by 1080 right? – Yep. – Alright what do you want? What 1500 frames per second? – Yep. – Got it? – Yep. – There it goes! – Good grief. And that would squirt into your foot? – Yep. [ music ] (In unison) Ohhhhh. (Jamie) Man, what a cameraman. This guy should get an Emmy award. – Ohhhh! (Destin) This guy does have an Emmy award, don’t you. – Yeah I’ve already got one of those. – That’s cool, look at that! (Destin) So how long does it take him to replenish that venom supply? – It’s now dependent on food. If they start feeding again, and they often don’t, but if you can get it feeding again, about 2-3 weeks. – Why would they not start feeding again? – They get grumpy. – Really. – We’ve had them in the lab here and often they won’t feed for 2-3 months. (Destin) And as you push down, that sac below.. (Jamie) There was a sac about here and a sac about there, so as it comes down, it comes down and it pushes on those sacs and there’s a little channel that runs up each side of the spine, so when the venom gets pushed out of the sac, it comes down the side of the spine and out the tip of the spine. – How sharp is that? – Yeah like a hypodermic needle. – That’s crazy man. – It’ll go clean through a wetsuit bootie. – Yeah? – We think it’s a pore formation venom, so it punches holes in things, in cell membranes and stuff. And it’s just designed for pain. – Really? – Pain, pain, pain and more pain. – Get away from me, I’m a bad fish. – Exactly. – OK point to the eye on this side. – So there’s an eye just there. – What?! – Yeah, just there. – Oh I see it! It’s very.. it’s clear. – Rocket scientists. (Destin) [laughs] Watch the cord, watch the cord. – Yep. Heh that’d be good, wouldn’t it. – Yeah, get some stonefish barbs in the face. – And get electrocuted at the same time. And there he goes. – Oh wow. – So here we are, filming one of the world’s ugliest animals. We have Destin, and we also have a stonefish. [laughs] This is the stonefish, and that’s the world’s ugliest animal. – Thank you. Alright let’s put him back. OK I hope you enjoyed that episode of Smarter Every Day about the stonefish just like we’re enjoying super hero hammock time, put your spiderman glasses on. Anyway, if you would like to support super hero hammock time and more Smarter Every Day episodes please go to and download a free audio book. Where do we listen to audio books? – In the car. – That’s right. Anyway if you would like to listen to a book, we’re reading one together right now at super hero hammock time. What book are we reading? – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. – That’s right, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. You can get that or any other audio book you want for free at That helps Smarter Every Day and it helps us do things like spend daddy time together. – And tickle! – And tickle. Anyway, if you’d like to support us, I’ll leave a link in the video description. Thank you so much. I’m Destin, you’re getting Smarter Every Day. Have a good one. Bye, can you say bye? Say bye. – Bye.
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