Blue-rings: How dangerous are they?

Discussion in 'Octopus Care' started by Neogonodactylus, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Neogonodactylus

    Neogonodactylus Haliphron Atlanticus Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Messages:
    658
    Likes Received:
    137
    I think we need a visit from "Myth Busters" here. Those of you who know me understand that I have worked for over 10 years trying to keep people from buying and displaying blue-rings in their home aquaria. There is danger, particularly to a child, should a bite occur. On the other hand, the fear of these animals is getting way over blown. In all probability if you were to be bitten (which is very unlikely), you would not be dead in three minutes. In fact, you might not die at all. Our lab has shown that the amount of TTX contained in blue-rings is highly variable from individual to individual and probably from species to species. Some individuals have barely detectable amounts of TTX. Others certainly have enough to kill you. The problem is there is know way to tell without assaying for the toxin. If bitten, unless you were alone or did not know that you were envenomated, you would survive with prompt medical care as a few Australians do each year. In the medical literature, there are only four confirmed deaths known to be caused by blue-ring bites. (That does not include the deaths from the "seafood stew" in Vietnam a couple of years ago.)

    Should blue-rings be kept in the home aquarium? No, in my opinion the risk of an accidental envenomation to an unsuspecting person, particularly a child, is too great.

    Should they be sold in aquarium stores? No, there is too great a chance that someone will get an animal that they do not know is dangerous.

    Are blue-rings endangered? Probably not, at least not the named species including H. lunulata, H. fasciatus and H. maculaosa. Some of the undescribed species seem to be rarer and perhaps deserve protection. However, if we don't know what is out there, it is difficult to know how to deal with it.

    Will you die if you put your hand in a tank with a blue-ring? Probably not unless you try to touch one. There is probably a greater chance of being electrocuted by an electrical short. But why take the risk. We all have ground fault interrupters on our aquaria, don't we?

    Roy
     
  2. Nancy

    Nancy Titanites Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2002
    Messages:
    5,584
    Likes Received:
    71
    Location:
    Dallas Texas
    Thanks for writing this, Roy, and putting things in perspective.

    Nancy
     
  3. Rosendorn1

    Rosendorn1 Pygmy Octopus Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2009
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    It should be allowed to ask: Ist this really so? In particular if I live alone and dont have any children? Then is my own responibility. But even I would be a famly-guy with kids:
    Do Blue-rings really crawl out of their tanks to hunt people? We know this is nonsense.
    The chance for children to be killed by a big dog is much, much greater, and no one claims for the prohibition of dobermans or pitbulls.
     
  4. Neogonodactylus

    Neogonodactylus Haliphron Atlanticus Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Messages:
    658
    Likes Received:
    137
    The dog mauling analogy is a bit off. There are 10s of millions of dogs that come in contact with children. I suspect that if there were that many blue-rings in home aquaria, we would have some deaths.

    And yes, blue-rings do crawl out of tanks. Obviously they are not on the hunt to attack, but when you find one crawling across the floor, the urge is to quickly pick it up and get it back into the tank.

    Roy
     
  5. monty

    monty Colossal Squid Staff Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2004
    Messages:
    4,887
    Likes Received:
    11
    In light of this, what do you recommend we say and do with respect to people who want to keep blue rings? I usually try to paint a picture of the "worst case scenario," but it sounds like you think that that has gotten out of hand... I know from my neurobiology coursework that TTX is one of nature's more impressive neurotoxins, so I certainly would not want any animal that can inject it anywhere near my own skin. I guess I feel that as a source of information, we have some obligation to make sure people are aware of the risks, since these are often downplayed by the people selling octos to hobbyists.

    I usually try to say something like "if you are bitten, you may have relatively little time between the onset of symptoms and incapacitation in which to call for medical help. If you don't get that help, you could die from respiratory paralysis." Do you think that's an inappropriately dire warning?
     
  6. cthulhu77

    cthulhu77 Titanites Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2003
    Messages:
    6,642
    Likes Received:
    2
    They should be kept the same as you would a venomous serpent. Locked room, no access to the public.

    I do like Blue Rings, and I find them to be intelligent and placid animals, but would never keep them in a standard tank.

    I also feel that they should not be sold in local fish stores, but of course, I feel that way about all wild caught octopus.
     
  7. spinycheek

    spinycheek GPO Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    1
    I like the analogy to venomous snakes. I think people should be allowed to risk their own lives, but must use extreme caution when others are at risk. I also am a big fan of factual science, I can't even begin to explain how irritated I get when people say daddy-long-legs are the most venomous spiders, especially since they aren't even spiders and have no venom glands! Do captive bred blue-rings maintain their toxin? I wonder if they must be in the wild to accumulate the microbes that produce it.
     
  8. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Messages:
    19,078
    Likes Received:
    1,123
    Location:
    Gainesville, GA USA
    Am I totally misled on the daddy-long-legs? It has been my understanding that they do have a stomach toxin (but no way to externally transmit it).
     
  9. spinycheek

    spinycheek GPO Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    1
    Yep, I don't know why that myth was ever started, but they have absolutely no venom. Some can secrete a noxious odor as a defense, but this is of no danger to anyone. They're distantly related to spiders and scorpions, but they can only bite with their chelicerae (non-venomous mouth parts), which can indeed puncture human skin, but they rarely actually bite. Most just scavenge on dead stuff.
     
  10. Scrounger

    Scrounger Cuttlefish Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0
    I was asking about octopus availability at one of the local fish stores around here, and the dude I was talking to mentioned the Blue Ring as one type that they could get through their supplier. I told him that I wouldn't be interested in one of those, and we began talking about the dangers involved with them. He told me a story about a "guy he knew" who put his arm into the tank after his Blue Ring Octopus had died, and the skin on his arm immediately developed a terrible rash, just becasue some of the venom had seeped into the aquarium.

    I'm pretty sure he likes to get hiiiiigh.
     
  11. spinycheek

    spinycheek GPO Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    1
    That's weird, I would think any venom would cause a tingling/numbing sensation.
     
  12. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Messages:
    19,078
    Likes Received:
    1,123
    Location:
    Gainesville, GA USA
    Thanks for demythafying the daddy-long-legs poison/venom tales. I did some additional checking (since I have understood this to be true for years ++ but knew they were not dangerous) and all articles I found validated your comments. There are not even known digestive enzymes (as I understood the type of poison) that could be poisonous to humans (there is a lack of study here so no evidence either way and no reason to do the study).
     
  13. spinycheek

    spinycheek GPO Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    1
    No problem, I like spreading truth. I've been telling this one since 2rd grade. Imagine a little 2rd grader arguing with their teacher about the toxicity of opilione arachnids........wow I really was a nerd ;)
     
  14. Rosendorn1

    Rosendorn1 Pygmy Octopus Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2009
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    another perspective.
    I kept toxic scorpions, snakes and spiders over years without problems and accidents.
    I think, they are much more dangerous then blue ringed octos, because they can breath the air and may survive in a normal house or flat over months. And many of them are much more agressive then the oktos!
    But as a responsible man I kept them with all the security-stuff you could need without any incidents. Like thausends of other people here in germany, too.
    Of course such animials dont belong in the hands of dummies, children, pimps and rednecks!
     
  15. Neogonodactylus

    Neogonodactylus Haliphron Atlanticus Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Messages:
    658
    Likes Received:
    137
    I would think the same level of protection typically applied to keeping a venomous snake would be about right. The cage/aquarium should be locked in an area without publick access and their should be warning information posted. In my laboratory the room is locked, everyone who has access to the area is instructed about the danger and what to do should an emergency occur, and there are signs on every tank containing a blue-ring. As a final bit of security, we now keep blue-rings in plastic jars with screen lids so escape is impossible/highly improbable. This way we can visually verify where the animal is before working with it.

    My guess is that there is some bioaccumulation of TTX in blue-rings. It is not clear that the TTX is produced by bacteria in cultured in the posterior salivary glands. Properly controlled experiments have no been done to see if TTX is lost from blue-rings held for a long time in captivity.Until we know differently, I will continue to treat captive blue-rings the same way I do one just caught in the wild - I will assume that it can kill me.

    I have written a few times about putting my hand into a shipping bag of water that contained a dead blue-ring. Within a few minutes I developed a tingling sensation that started to concern me. Fortunately the effects lasted only a few minutes. However, it is clear that the toxin can "leak" from dead animals.

    Roy
     
  16. Octavarium

    Octavarium Wonderpus Registered

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    East Haven,CT
    Interesting post Dr. Caldwell, I never knew the TTX concentration varied so greatly in blue rings.
     
  17. Green_Tree

    Green_Tree O. vulgaris Registered

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    0
    Just a quick comment that that myth may have come from the other Daddy Long-Legs. Not saying anyone is wrong but there are two. The Opilionid variety, one segment, two eyes, and no venom. And the Pholcidae, Two Segments, 8 eyes in one clump, lives in cellars commonly. There have been no studies as to the toxicity of the venom of the Pholcidae variety so even there it is probably a myth but yah just wanted to clear that up.
     
  18. Peter_Blomgren

    Peter_Blomgren Larval Mass Registered

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    I do agree with you Neogonodactylus. In Denmark it is illegal to import and/or keep poisinous animals such as the blue ringed. On that note, I find them extremely beautiful BUT would never allow them (even if I could) in my tank.
    Actually we are surrounded by poisinous things.. Take for instance the botanic plant which you subtract castor oil. It contain Ricin and it would only take a couple of seeds to kill a grown man, in fact, it is the same poison used in the "KGB" umbrella assasination. No antidote available. Planting the seeds with an open cut on the finger, can have catastrophic results. I believe the seeds make great rosary beeds. Or the Nerium Oleander, which I believe growns alongside your california highways. Beautiful, but equally deadly within 24 hrs. Even the rotten leaves, emit poison if they fall into a pool of water. Antidote/treatment is relatively easy, if the cause is estabilished shortly.

    Unlike the stonefish, which I find absolutely boring, my motive for owning a octo would be the interaction. As a pet, I would come to love it - and hopefully it back at me :smile2:
    My point is.
    Most people (my belief) buy a octopus for that precise reason. But it would take a lot of the joy away to always be alert and NEVER interact, besides through the glass. I might as well view a docu. about the BRO on discovery in HD and get the same satisfaction.

    So BRO. - no thanks. :smile2:
    Just my opinion.
     
  19. neurobadger

    neurobadger Vampyroteuthis Registered

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    22
    My immediate thought on this is that you have no way of telling how venomous a blue-ring octopus is, and finding out would be unnecessarily invasive in most situations, so a blue-ring octopus is a BAD IDEA.

    Unless you like the idea of being unable to breathe for a few hours.
     

Share This Page