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Scorpion fish, the alarm goes off in Italy

Scorpion fish, the alarm goes off in Italy


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The dangerous scorpion fish was sighted in Italian waters triggering the state of alert. This is what those who encounter this harmless-looking fish risk.

Despite its graceful appearance, thescorpion fishit is far from harmless. It is known by the names ofscorpion fish, lion fish orlionfish and it is one of the most popular tropical fish for its striking appearance but also for the venom of its quills and again, for being one of the most invasive marine species in the world.

The scorpion fish is an alien species that has invaded several seas and is now also the turn of Italy.

Before addressing the topic, let's see what is meant by an alien species. An alien species is nothingextraterrestrial. The term "alien species" can be read as a synonym forallochthonous species. Simply, in biology this is how a species is defined which, due to human activities, finds itself colonizing a territory other than its natural habitat.

Scorpion fish in Italy, a dangerous alien species

In Italy we have witnessed the invasion of alien species several times. It happened with the coypu that destroyed hundreds of fields and river banks. It has already happened with the red palm weevil that is very difficult to control.

More recently, we have seen the velutina wasp that destroys Italian beehives and the popilia japonica, the insect that devours entire fields, damaging local agriculture.

Whenever an alien species invades a habitat, it risks destroying it or creating major imbalances.

The arrival of thescorpion fishin Italian waters there is something more frightening: this fish is not only invasive and can have an important ecological impact, this species is alsodangerous for humans.

Thescorpion fishit naturally swims in the Red Sea and the Indian and Pacific oceans. In these habitats it does not risk being invasive due to the presence of natural predators that limit its development.

Accidentally, due to human activity, this fish was introduced to Florida in the early 1990s. From Florida, thescorpion fishit rapidly invaded the entire Caribbean Sea and a large part of the western Atlantic coasts.

In recent years, thescorpion fishit quickly spread to the eastern Mediterranean. In October 2016, in Tunisia, Ispra (Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research) issued an alert announcing that thescorpion fishit could have easily reached our country.

Today, thanks to a collaboration between researchers from Ispra, Cnr and the American University of Beirut, thelion fishwas reported for the first time in Italian waters, precisely within the "Vendicari wildlife oasis oriented nature reserve", in Sicily.

Scorpion fish, because it is dangerous for humans

Who, at sea, is afraid of jellyfish, with the introduction of thescorpion fishin our waters he will have other concerns. The quills of the scorpion fish do damage that goes far beyond that of the classic jellyfish sting.

Thelionfishis a formidable predator. It has poisonous, long and thin spines. The spines are located at the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins.

The lion fishit remains dangerous even after death: the poison remains active from 24 to 48 hours after the death of the fish, so its danger remains high even on specimens that end up on the fish market as "fresh caught".

Theresting of the scorpion fishcauses severe and persistent pain. Very often, thesting of the scorpion fishit is associated with other systemic symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, convulsions, diarrhea and difficulty in breathing.

In severe cases, the affected part of thestingit can experience local necrosis and a loss of sensation that can last for several days.

Scorpion fish sting, what to do

The first thing to do following thesting of the scorpion fishconsists in removing any thorns.

Disinfect the affected area immediately and immerse it in very hot water. Warm compresses are not enough but direct contact with very hot water is necessary. The poisonous toxin is thermolabile, which means that the protein structure of the toxins can be altered with heat thus obtaining a reduction in symptoms and pain.

What to do if you see a scorpion fish

From Ispra (Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research) the notice arrives:

Given the potential invasiveness and danger of the species, anyone who has caught or sighted a scorpion fish is invited to take a picture and report the observation at: [email protected] A Facebook group called 'oddfish' is also available on which to share observations of exotic species with sea users and researchers ”.

Scorpion fish is edible

For fishermen: thescorpion fish, identified by the researchers with the namepterois miles, it is edible. The pterois miles species can be cooked in various ways, being very careful, during the cleaning phase, not to get stung with the quills.


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