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Journal Article

Toxicity of Stings of Ariid and Ictalurid Catfishes

William S. Birkhead
Copeia
Vol. 1972, No. 4 (Dec. 29, 1972), pp. 790-807
DOI: 10.2307/1442737
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1442737
Page Count: 18

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Topics: Catfish, Toxicity, Venoms, Pectorals, Bioassay, Fish, Animal glands, Integumentary system, Symptoms, River ports
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Toxicity of Stings of Ariid and Ictalurid Catfishes
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Abstract

Extracts prepared from the pooled pectoral and dorsal stings and the caudal fins of 12 ictalurid and one ariid catfish were injected into Gambusia affinis. Although it has been generally assumed that madtoms (e.g. Noturus) possessed the most virulent stings as judged by their effects on humans, the more toxic species of catfishes were not necessarily taxonomically related. Extracts from the stings of Ictalurus melas and Noturus exilis were usually lethal to Gambusia, and those frim Galeichthys felis, I. natalis, N. gyrinus, N. nocturnus, N. flavus, and N. placidus were quite virulent. Stings of I. punctatus, I. nebulosus, and N. albater were relatively innocuous, and the stings of N. leptacanthus, and Pylodictis olivaris were not considered toxic. An apparent interspecific variation in the virulence of extracts from the caudal fins of these catfishes was best explained in terms of the immune response of the Gambusia. The belief that pectoral stings of catfishes were supplied with venom from the axillary gland is doubted. Although results obtained with I. punctatus and I. melas indicated that this gland was toxic, it was hard to envision how a secretion from it could have been effectively transferred to the sting without becoming greatly diluted. The defensive function attributed to these stings seems apparent from their design. The toxic integumentary sheath is associated with a spine which can inflict a wound into which venom can be extruded. Although the integumentary sheath is damaged in the process, and it appears to regenerate slowly, most of the experimental evidence presented suggests that the toxicity of these stings has developed in response to predation pressure.

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