Photo Of Deadly Sea Snake And Stonefish In Mortal Combat Has A Fascinating Secret

An Aussie spear fisherman named Rick Trippe insists he’s not crazy. But you’d have to be to interrupt the meal of a deadly sea snake.

But that’s exactly what he did last week. While diving near a World War II wreck off the coast of Australia, he came upon a dramatic and rarely-seen battle between a venomous sea snake and what he thought was an equally deadly stonefish, Trippe told BBC News.

Both were in a pitched battle, one biting the other, United Press International reported. When he came upon the scene, Trippe did the only logical thing — he snatched the fighting duo out of the water for a quick photo shoot.

“I knew the (stonefish) would die because the sea snake is highly poisonous. But I knew the snake would also die from the fish’s poison if I just left it there… Being an animal lover, I grabbed the snake just behind the head with serious precaution, knowing that sea snakes are highly venomous. I removed the poisonous fish from its mouth and body.”

He asked his friend to take the picture — which he wasn’t too happy about — then Rick left the deadly duo in peace, releasing them back into the water. The snake went back for the stonefish, which eventually lost the battle.

According to National Geographic, there’s nothing particularly rare about these creatures being locked in mortal combat — since fish are part of the predator’s diet — but it is rare to catch it on video.

Rick posted the photo of the two duking it out on social media and it quickly went viral, if only because the fight between the two venomous creatures seemed destined to end in a stalemate, since they were equally matched. Either one could’ve perished in the fight.

The stonefish releases neurotoxic venom from the base of 13 dorsal fin spines, Discovery added. The venom can kill a human being in under two hours. Considered the ocean’s deadliest fish, it unleashes the venom to paralyze prey and to protect itself.

It didn’t do such a good job protecting itself this time, it would seem. But the fish may be harboring a bit of a secret. Turns out, it may not be a stonefish at all, making Trippe’s photo a bit less exciting but offering an interesting insight into the animal kingdom nonetheless.

Sea snake expert John C. Murphy told NatGeo that he can’t specify the exact species of sea snake — he needs to count its scales to do that — but believes Trippe was spot on in his identification. But the stonefish may have actually been a frogfish, said biologist Brian Fry.

Sea snakes eat both, but the frogfish is harmless, making him a much safer meal. This fish actually mimics its venomous counterparts to protect itself, making it easy to mistake for the deadlier stonefish.

Even if it was really a stonefish the sea snake had chosen for its meal, it likely would’ve won anyway because it knows how to munch on the creature without being punctured by its venomous spines. Faced up against a predator outfitted with its own, and real, venom, the frogfish didn’t stand a chance.

[Photo Courtesy Twitter]