An anonymous beachgoer in the tropical city of Sanya in southern China quickly became possibly the world’s unluckiest man when his genitals were pricked by a stingray’s barbed tail.
A viral video circulating across Chinese media shows the man writhing in pain as a crowd of people surrounds him. He reportedly went swimming in the ocean when a stingray swam up his shorts. When he made his way back to the shore, the stingray was still hooked to his genitals.
"I imagine the poor gentleman in the article was swimming along the bottom or did a quick dive in and landed right on top of the startled stingray," marine biologist Molly Zaleski told IFLScience.
Despite certain jokes circulating the Internet about this man’s unfortunate situation, getting stung by a stingray can be a quite serious and sometimes life-threatening issue.
"Stingray interactions can be pretty common with people getting stung yearly off the southern US coast. It's because stingrays hang out in shallow, sandy waters that just happen to overlap with where people like to wade and swim," explained Zaleski. "They're not aggressive, and their first response to disturbance is to swim away, but the injuries to humans happen when someone accidentally steps on them or they feel in a position where they can't swim away."
Typically found in shallow waters in temperate oceans, stingrays move by flapping the sides of their flattened bodies like wings while using their tails to move through the water. In 2006, Australian zookeeper Steve Irwin was killed when he was stabbed “hundreds of times” by the “jagged barb” of the tail of a 2.4-meter (8-foot) stingray. The stingray that killed Irwin had a 20-centimeter (8-inch) serrated tip at the end of its tail made of the same substance as shark scales, reports Live Science. When the stingray feels threatened, this tip stiffens and, if it is serrated, can cut through the flesh of predators.
The tails of some stingrays are equipped with a dangerous venom that can kill humans. When administered, the venom immediately causes intense pain to the affected area and can last as long as two hours. In extreme cases, the damaged tissues can become necrotic and die off.
"Most injuries are cuts from the barb, so the reaction should be the way you'd normally react to a cut: clean the wound, apply pressure, and call 911 (the cuts can be very painful)," Zaleski said. "If the barb is stuck in there, don't try to remove it, but rather have a medical professional help you."
As for the man in China, it’s unclear whether he suffered any injuries or if he was at risk of venom poisoning.