Dangerous reef organisms
 
Dangerous reef organisms hot buttons for dangerous reef-organisms section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website hot button for irritating chemicals section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website hot button for bites section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website hot button for sharp spines/bristles section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website hot button for poisonous flesh section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website hot button for stings section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website

There aren't many Caribbean-reef orgnanisms that will kill you dead, but there are certainly quite a few that can hurt you. CLICK ON an icon to learn about what you should avoid.

NOTE it goes without saying that a good and careful SCUBA diver will be swimming well above the reef and will not be touching anything. For this reason, most dive-boat operators frown on their customers wearing gloves

 
 
subtitle icon for irritating chemicals part of the BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website

Irritating chemicals

Not many reef animals or plants release irritating chemicals when touched, but there are a few. Most notable are certain sponges and fishes known as soapfishes.

 
 
seahorse dive leader in the BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website photograph of a sponge and coral taken from a video

"Only a few reef invertebrates can hurt you simply by release of chemicals, but a couple of sponges can do it.  Not this barrel sponge, it’s okay…although you can see that the brain coral really really doesn’t like the sponge, and the dislike seems to be mutual!" - Turks & Caicos 2003

NOTE Xestospongia muta

 

 
  A certain type of sponge, Neofibularia nolitangere, known aptly as "touch-me-not" sponges, have chemicals in their tissues that can burn, cause blisters, and lead to flaking of the skin. The degree of sensitivity to the sponge depends upon the person. The sponge is common in the Caribbean area.
  photographs of touch-me-not sponges Neofibularia nolitangere
 
 
treatment for sponge burns

1. wash the afflicted area gently with soap and water.
2. apply cold packs if necessary to reduce inflammation.

 
 

photograph of a soapfish with several cleaner fishes
Soapfishes produce a purportedly toxic mucous coating on their skin, but whether its defensive effect is through touch or consumption is not clear, nor is it clear whether the mucus has any effect on humans. However, the presence of a soapfish in an aquarium tank may be detrimental to the health of other fishes.

 

 

Toxic mucus or not, it's business as usual
for these cleaner gobies Gobiosoma sp. and
their client soapfish Rypticus saponaceus 0.4X

 
 
seahorse dive leader in the BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website photograph of a soapfish taken from a video

"Well, isn't this typical, a soapfish lying on its side. What, no-one to irritate?" - Little Cayman 2001

NOTE Rypticus saponaceus

 
 
treatment for soapfish mucus 1. includes having a nice bath!
 
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