Venomous Marine Life

© Jean Tresfon
Diver with a venomous Stingray.

The venomous marine life of South Africa are found all along the coastline of the country, and although some pose little threat to humans, there are a few to know about before you go on an oceanic adventure. Venomous marine life are aquatic animals that can be harmful to humans if they come in contact with their stinger, tentacle or liquid. Most of these animals live far beneath the ocean's surface, but it is important to know which to look out for.

Venomous marine life who sting include jellyfish, bluebottles, anemones and starfish. Sea sponges can cause inflammation on the skin, and it is best to avoid touching sea cucumbers and fire corals. Beware of stingrays, scorpionfish, toadfish and catfish as they have sharp fins through which they deliver venom. Squid, octopus and inkfish are to be avoided as well. It is best to look and admire from afar than to come into contact with any of the above mentioned animals.

If you are intersted in learning more about these interesting creatures, dive into the Marine Guide of


Anemones belong to the Actiniaria order which consists of 44 families and more than 1000 species. Some anemone species live in tubes or burrow into the sand....more


Bluebottles belong to the Physaliidae family which is a part of the Siphonophora order. It comprises of four distinct individuals – the float, tentacles, organs and sexual organs....more


Catfish have long bodies that are at times shaped similarly to that of an eel, and their tailfins are forked. They have two to three pairs of barbels around the mouth....more


Sepiida order falls under the class Cephalopoda which includes octopus, squid and nautilus. Often confused with squids (which don’t have the ‘W’ pupil and are smaller)....more

Eagle Ray

Myliobatidae family consists of 7 genera and 42 species. Very fast swimmers. Tail is longer than the body. Some of the Eagle rays have a snout, like the Eagle and Bull rays....more


Hydrozoa class in the phylum Cnidaria consists of approximately 1 750 species. Closely related to corals and anemones. They swim by contracting muscles and jetting water from the bell....more

Leaf Scorpionfish

Leaf Scorpionfish have flattened bodies and tiny heads. Their dorsal fins are in the shape of a sail, running continuously from above the eyes and connecting with the caudal fin....more


The octopus belongs to the octopoda order which falls under the cephalopoda class. This class includes cuttlefish, nautilus and squid. Interestingly, most octopuses have three hearts....more


Pufferfish belong to the Tetraodontidae family which comprises of 19 genera and 121 species. They use their pectoral fins to propel themselves forward but are very slow swimmers....more

Red Lionfish

Red Lionfish belong to the Pterois genus which comprises of nine species. They are well camouflaged, docile creatures that are not easily scared off by divers....more


Scorpionfish belong to the Scorpaenopsis family which comprises of 26 species. They occur on coral reefs, lying very still and camouflaging with its colours....more

Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumbers belong to the Holothuroidea family which falls under the Echinodermata phylum class. This includes sea urchins and all the starfish – sea, feather and brittle....more

Sea Urchin

Sea urchins are a part of the Echinoidea class which falls under the Echinodermata phylum, which includes sea cucumbers and all the stars – sea, feather and brittle....more


Sponges belong to the Porifera phylum which comprises of more than 15 000 species. They consist of collagen, lime, silica spicule or sponge which maintain the shape of the sponge....more


Asteroidea class falls under the Echinodermata phylum, which includes all the Feather and Brittlestars, Sea cucumbers and Sea urchins. Slow moving, bottom-dwelling animals....more


Named after the stinger on their tails. Flat, disk-shaped body with triangular wings. Head not distinguishable from body. Wider than it is long. Long tail....more


Stonefish belong to the Synanceiidae sub-family which comprises of eight genera and 36 species. The name ‘stonefish’ derives from its appearance....more


Toadfish belong to the Batrachoididae family which comprises of 23 genera and 80 species. Their name derives from their toad-like appearance....more