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Venomous Fish

October 12, 2006

The estimated number of venomous fish just about tripled.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The truth about stinging fish. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

There are about 450 venomous snakes in the world; now new research shows there are at least 1,200 venomous fish. It comes from ichthyologists at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Leo Smith and Ward Wheeler used their new evolutionary tree and the just 200 previously known venomous fish to guess which other fish species would also have venom. They then confirmed their predictions with dissections. Smith explains this estimate is very conservative.

LEO SMITH (American Museum of Natural History):
Only when someone had actually published a paper talking about venom in a group did I include them. And, you know, plenty of us have been stung by other ones that are clearly venomous.

HIRSHON:
He says he wouldn’t be surprised if the number rises to over six thousand—important news for drug researchers who often use venoms to develop new medicines. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.