Stingrays will defend themselves by lashing out with whip-like tails equipped with one or two spines. Because they are barbed they can cause serious gashes and in about two-thirds of species they are also venomous. The spines are capable of penetrating wetsuits and shoe leather and have been known to kill people unlucky enough to have been stabbed in the chest.
Those at risk are people wading, who often get injured on the leg, careless fishers and divers who may get lashed by a startled stingray as they swim above it. Prevention involves shuffling feet when wading. Wash wounds thoroughly with sea water and remove spines carefully.
A number of other fish are equipped with similar venomous spines, although they are more mobile than stonefish and will prefer to get out of the way. These include members of the scorpionfish family, such as this popular aquarium fish known by many names such as lionfish, butterfly cod and firefish. (The freshwater bullrout is also in this family.)