Viral photo shows deadly threat in sand at Aussie beach: 'A true landmine'

A beachgoer got up close and personal to the dangerous discovery which can be fatal to humans.

Australia is known for its laid-back lifestyle and stunning coastal seascapes, but harmful creatures and worrying finds are up there with what the land down under is known for. So it comes as no surprise that a picture taken on an Aussie beach has gone viral on social media — not for the colour of its sand or scenic views, but for what is hidden within it.

"Take care" when walking along the beach, one Facebook post reads alongside a close-up picture of the sand believed to be somewhere along the east coast of Australia. "Can you see it," the poster added. "A true landmine," someone else wrote after re-sharing the image.

Stonefish found in sand on Australian beach.
Stonefish are among the most dangerous fish in the world and are commonly found on beaches in Australia. Source: Facebook/Getty

Dangerous animal 'almost impossible to spot'

While easy to miss, the danger lies deep within the sand where a highly venomous stonefish is buried but is often hard to spot due to camouflage. Stonefish are extremely dangerous and often fatal when stepped on which is most often how humans stumble upon the harmful fish.

Associate Professor Bryan Fry from the University of Queensland said the discovery was not unusual since stonefish are often found washed up on beaches, particularly along the northeast coast of Australia — and there's usually always more than one.

"They're one of the few fish that can survive prolonged periods out of water, so they'll be exposed for hours on end at times at low tide," he told Yahoo News Australia. "Of course, this is one of the things that makes them so dangerous because you're not thinking fish when you're walking around on solid ground."

Professor Culum Brown from Macquarie University agreed most people step on stonefish by accident, mostly because they're "almost impossible to spot". "They are highly camouflaged and normally live among rocks or seagrass beds in tropical waters," he previously told Yahoo.

Stonefish underwater.
Stonefish can cause death in humans if not treated immediately. Source: Getty

How are stonefish dangerous?

Stonefish have a bunch of strong, sharp spines along their back which they erect when disturbed, Professor Brown explained. "Each spine has an associated venom gland or two that squirt the venom along the spine and into the unsuspecting victim".

He said the pain caused by standing on a stonefish is "excruciating" and can cause muscular paralysis, breathing difficulties and even cardiac arrest. Professor Fry, an expert in venom, agreed that a sting from a stonefish is particularly "brutal".

The key to treating a sting is hot water and immediate medical attention. "Hot water is something that will stop the pain and stop the damage," Professor Fry said.

"Stonefish and box jellyfish have the dubious distinction of being the only animals in the world that can kill you just from the pain alone."

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