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This image is part of the feature Most Toxic Animals


Caption: Stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa) camouflaged on a coral reef. Its curved mouth is seen at centre. This bottom-dwelling fish inhabits reefs and shallow waters in the tropical Indo-Pacific region. Its camouflage makes it indistinguishable from the rocks and reefs amongst which it hides. It waits, immobile, and ambushes its prey (small fish or crustaceans) and swallows them whole. The fins along its back (not seen) contain poisonous spines, used in defence. Its poison can be fatal within hours to humans if medical attention is not received. Photographed in the Red Sea.

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