A Florida catfish stabbed a child under 10 in the chest on Monday, prompting authorities to rush the victim to a nearby hospital.
While on a fishing trip in New Port Richey, a suburban city along the Gulf of Mexico in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, the catfish spines pierced the child’s chest cavity approximately 1-1.5 inches causing shortness of breath, local authorities said in a tweet.
As the incident occurred, the child’s mother dialed 911, with Pasco Fire Rescue responding and listing the child as a trauma alert.
Pasco County Fire Rescue shared footage of the helicopter transporting the child to St Joseph’s hospital in Tampa in a tweet.
According to The Sun, the department’s PIO Corey Dierdoff said that although the child remains in stable condition, it’s unknown whether the catfish was venomous.
Dierdorff described the incident to WTSP-TV as “very odd,” saying he’s “never heard of anything like that.”
“You hear of fisherman that might be cut by a barb or hit in the back of the leg and get an infection, but never heard of one penetrating the chest,” Dierdoff said.
According to a 2009 report by National Geographic, roughly half of the 3,000 catfish species contain venom.
Biologist Jeremy Wright, who conducted the study, concluded that “the venom and microscopic tissue structures of 158 catfish species. . . . at least 1,250 to 1,625 catfish species are likely venomous.”
Wright said North America’s toxic catfish population has “relatively mild venom,” but other species are venomless—like flathead catfish. However, Wright noted a few are “dangerous enough to kill a human.”
According to Wright, catfish only use venom “strictly for defense” rather than hunting.
National Geographic added, “when a catfish feels threatened by a bigger fish, it can pop out the collapsible spines that usually lie close to its sides, making its body wider and harder to swallow.”
The sharp spines of the catfish cut inside the predator’s mouth when a bigger fish attacks it.
“Meanwhile, pressure on the spines causes them to shift at their bases, ripping the skin over adjacent venom glands. Venom spills out and into the predator’s mouth wounds,” National Geographic reported.