Stingrays are bottom dwellers found partially buried in shallow sandy waters during the temperate summer months. They are flat fish with eyes and nostrils on the top side of their bodies and their mouths and gills are on the under-side.
The stingray’s defense mechanism is camouflage, but if stepped on, it will sting. The stinging mechanism is composed of the tail, one or more barbed spines on the tail, and the venom on the spine. When the stingray is at rest the spine is flat against the tail.
The spine is 1 to 1.5 inches long and made of a hard tooth like material. The spine has many small barbs or serrations like small fish hooks going opposite the direction of the point of the spine. The spine is housed in a thin sheath which encases a mixture of venom and mucus.
Download our Sting Ray Safety Handout.
Each jellyfish tentacle is covered with thousands of cells called cnidoblasts, whichhouse nematocysts containing stinging threads. When a jellyfish encounters another object, pressure inside the nematocyst causes the threads to uncoil. The stinging cells spring out at the unsuspecting victim, firing venom into it. The venom is a neurotoxin designed to paralyze jellyfish prey.
Although a jellyfish can kill a small aquatic animal, its sting is not usually fatal to humans. It tends to cause pain, skin rashes, fever and muscle cramps. The degree of pain and reaction to a jellyfish sting depends on the species. Larger jellyfish have larger cnidoblasts that can penetrate deeper into the skin, and some jellyfish have stronger venom than others. Jellyfish in Southern California are usually smaller in scale and have a more mild sting than other species found around the world.
When at the beach, watch for jellyfish both on the water and on the sand. Even a tentacle that has been separated from its jellyfish and washed ashore can sting. If you get stung, remove tentacles from skin. DO NOT wash with fresh water, Instead, go straight to the nearest lifeguard where they will treat the sting with a solution of saline and vinegar to kill the nematocysts (stinging cells) and relieve the pain. Any signs of a severe allergic reaction (shortness of breath, hives, wheezing etc.) warrant immediate medical attention. It is always a good idea to swim or surf near an open lifeguard tower and always ask about safety before entering the water.