The Poison in the Aquarium

An aquarium enthusiast who goes by the name Steveoutlaw on forums was poisoned while trying to rid his aquarium of an invasive colony of anemones. To kill it, he boiled the rocks from his fish tank, and accidently inhaled some fumes. He ended up in the hospital, a victim of palytoxin, the second deadliest poison found in the natural world.
Palytoxin is shrouded in legend. Hawaiian islanders tell of a cursed village in Maui, whose members defied a shark god that had been eating their fellow villagers. They dismembered and burned the god, before scattering his ashes in a tide pool near the town of Hana. Shortly after, a mysterious type of seaweed started growing in the pool. It became known as “limu-make-o-Hana” (deadly seaweed of Hana). If smeared on a spear’s point, it could instantly kill its victims.

The shark god may have been an elaborate fiction, but in 1961, Philip Helfrich and John Shupe actually found the legendary pool. Within it, they discovered a new species of zoanthid called Palythoa toxica. The limu-make-o-Hana was real, but it wasn’t seaweed – it was a type of colonial anemone. In 1971, Richard Moore and Paul Scheuer isolated the chemical responsible for the zoanthid’s lethal powers  – palytoxin. Now, Jonathan Deeds from the US Food and Drug Administration has found that the poison is readily available in aquarium stores.

The problem is that the anemones that contain palytoxin are almost impossible to distinguish from species that don't. Read more about it at Not Exactly Rocket Science. Link -via reddit

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