The spines on their tail are sharp enough to pierce through a wooden boat. Their venom can kill human cells and tissues.

And as it enters your body, you’ll experience excruciating pain, as the serotonin in the venom makes your muscles contract. So what should you do if you find yourself surrounded by these poisonous creatures?

Stingrays are flat-bodied rays that have long, sharp spines on their tails. There are about 200 species of stingrays, and they live in freshwater and saltwater. The giant freshwater stingrays can be up to 5 m (16.5 ft) long and weigh up to 590 kg (1,300 lbs).

In their natural habitat, these disk-shaped creatures are solitary. They travel long distances to find food and rarely interact with other stingrays. But recently, they’ve started socializing more, thanks to humans.

Some people have started bringing stingrays, among other marine creatures, into their backyard swimming pools to create self-sustaining ecosystems. The process is known as aquaponics, and although it may provide you with some sustainable crops, it can also introduce a new danger to your backyard.

Because if you fall into the pool, there are a lot of stingers waiting for you. How could a dance move help you avoid getting stung by a stingray?

Why should you always swim on the surface of the pool? And how does hot water stop the venom from spreading?

Step 1. Dance on the bottom of the pool

Stingrays are bottom-dwellers, and they like to bury themselves in the sand. This makes it hard to see them. So you could step on a stingray by accident and feel the sting of its venomous tail. To move safely around them, don’t walk by lifting your feet. Instead, shuffle your feet along so they stay in contact with the floor. This is called the stingray shuffle. That will alert any camouflaged stingray to your presence so it will move and you won’t step on it.

Step 2. Use hot water

If you get stung by a stingray in an area that does not contain vital organs, like your ankle, pull the spine out and apply pressure on the wound. Then pour hot water on it, as heat breaks down the venom, and limits the amount of damage that it can do to you. The hot water may bring out the venom, which will look like jelly. But do it right away. If the wound is not treated fast, you may need amputation.

Step 3. Don’t dive too deep

It’s best if you swim near the surface and don’t go down to the bottom. And if you do see a stingray, don’t try to touch it. An attack can be fatal if the spines enter your vital organs.

In 2006, Steve Irwin, a TV host known as the Crocodile Hunter, was trying to get some footage of a short-tailed stingray for a nature show. The stingray started stabbing him with its eight-inch long barbed spine. The barb pierced his heart and killed him. Floating along the top of the water is a smart idea. You can look down on these interesting creatures without putting yourself in danger.

Step 4. Protect your vital organs

If the stingray’s barb enters your abdomen or chest cavity, don’t pull the spine out. That could kill you due to the tissue death caused by the venom being close to your vital organs. And the barbs on the spines are so sharp they can inflict serious damage if you pull them out. So instead, seek medical attention immediately.

Step 5. Give them space

Stingrays are popular aquarium pets. They eat worms, mollusks and other invertebrates that live on the seafloor. And they’ll only hurt you to defend themselves, or if they feel harassed. If you respect their space, they’ll respect yours in return.

You survived falling into a pool of stingrays. Now hopefully you’ll be more careful of where you swim. But if you end up in another pool filled with critters thirsty for your blood, like leeches, we’re here to help you on How to Survive.

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