What is Palytoxin?
Palytoxin is a highly toxic compound that is produced by certain species of zoanthus corals, including Palythoa grandis, Nuclear Death Paly, Purple Death Paly, Button Polyps and many other types of zoanthus corals. It is a polycyclic ether that is highly potent and can be harmful or even lethal to humans and other animals if ingested or inhaled. It is thought to serve as a defense mechanism for the coral, deterring potential predators from consuming it. Palytoxin can also be harmful to other marine animals, including fish and invertebrates.
Symptoms of palytoxin poisoning in humans can include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle and/or abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, and heart problems. In severe cases, palytoxin poisoning can be life-threatening and may require immediate medical attention. There are cases of people dying from palytoxin poisoning and the damage it causes to the body are dependent upon exposure levels.
Safety precautions are recommended. It is important to handle zoanthus corals with care and avoid inhaling or ingesting any water that may contain palytoxin. It is also important to thoroughly wash your hands and working areas after handling these corals. Wearing gloves and eye protection is advised. Do not cut these corals on a wet saw as this can cause airborne droplets to form which may be inhaled or land on surfaces causing contamination.
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Brian Hale has been active in the reefing community since the 1990's and is the owner of TheCoralFarm.com