A bloke says he came inches from a horrifying death after narrowly dodging the world's most toxic fish.

Stonefish are experts in camouflage and disguise and one of the creatures almost cost naturalist Daniel Brown his life as he explored rock pools in Lee Point, near Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory.

The creepy-looking sea dweller tucks itself in between rocks and sand where it waits for prey to pass by over head before launching a vicious attack in just 0.015 seconds.

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Venom is a weapon stonefish only resort to when in need of defending themselves which may well include having a human foot accidentally stamping down on it.

Daniel warned on Facebook: "Be careful where you step out there on the beach, guys. Not all the rocks are actually rocks."

He explained: "We went exploring the Lee Point rock pools at low tide on Sunday. We were looking for the most venomous octopus in the world (blue-ringed octopus).

"We didn’t find it. Instead we found the most venomous fish in the world!"

In the event of a stonefish piercing through human flesh, its poison can cause cardiac collapse within half an hour or immediately inflict excruciating pain lasting days.

Bryan Fry, an associate professor who leads the Venom Evolution Laboratory at the University of Queensland, told Newsweek: "They are far and away the most toxic fish.

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"Indeed, the pain is so great that people may die of pain-induced shock within the first couple of minutes. If you survive that, the venom can kill by causing cardiovascular collapse as quickly as 30 minutes after the sting."

The pain is said to be immediate and excruciating and can last for days.

The fish hold their venom at the base of the 13 sharp spines that line its dorsal fin. "The venom is quite complex," Fry said. "It prevents blood from clotting, damages muscles, affects the rhythm of the heart and causes paralysis."

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Worryingly, Bryan says there is no shortage of stonefish on Australia's shores.

He said: "In the right places, stonefish can be extremely common.

"On some dives at Amity Point here in Brisbane, we can easily spot a dozen in a single dive."

Nasty stings are best avoided by beachgoers donning sturdy footwear according to The Ocean Conservancy which advises people shuffle their feet along the sand instead of taking normal steps.

In case you spot a stonefish, Bryan adds: "Leave it alone. They only sting in defence. Basically, they don't start fights, they end them."


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