Catfish sting bucket-bathers

Worried about the statistical likelihood of being stung by a catfish while pouring a bucket of water out of the Amazon and onto your head?

Well, you're right to be worried, for scientists have determined the probability of getting stung while bucket-bathing is actually surprisingly high.

New research published in the journal Wildnerness and Environmental Medicine has looked into the likelihood of getting stung by small driftwood catfishes called Centromochus, which are often accidentally scooped out of the river in buckets by bathers washing in Brazil's Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes.

Although they are quite small fishes, auchenipterid catfishes have spiny fins and can prick the skin causing painful wounds. "Out of 27 bathers, 17 of them had been stung while bucket-bathing in the Amazon..."The authors, well-known catfish biologists Sazima, Zuanon and Haddad, interviewed 27 people living on the banks of the Amazon to find out whether they'd been stung while bucket bathing and found that 63% of them had - and of those, three had been injured in several different incidents.

The paper says: "To assess the likelihood of catching catfish in bathing buckets, we randomly threw a typical plastic bucket used for bathing in 4 series of 10 throws into the river at dusk or night around a floating house."

"In the 4 series of 10 bucket throws, we caught 3 driftwood catfish (in 1 series we did not catch any fish). Thus, the chance of catching a driftwood catfish in a single bucket throw at dusk was slightly less than 10%."

The paper concludes, helpfully, that all of the stings occured around dawn or dusk, so if you're off to the Amazon be careful when you're bathing.

For more information see the paper: Sazima, I, J Zuanon & V Haddad, 2005. Puncture wounds by driftwood catfish during bucket baths: Local habits of riverside people and fish natural history in the Amazon. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 16: 204"208.

Thanks to Heok Hee Ng for spotting this paper.