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Although the first documented study of the venom and associated structures of the weever fish family (Trachinidae) wasn't until 1840 (this was my Allman). The venomous nature of the weever was known about as far back as 50 AD in the "Greek Herbal" of Discorides (circa 50 AD.) (translated by gunther 1934). Under the subject Drakon Thalassois (Trachinus draco) is written:
"The sea dragon, being opened and soe applied is a cure for ye hurt doone by his prickles"
Indicating that the venomous nature of the Trachinus family was known about, whether this cure actually works is as yet unproved. The poet Oppian, (as quoted by Drummond (1840)) actually wrote poems about fish with spines including the members of the Weever family. Although in this poem he groups the weevers under a different name (Dragons) and includes other fish that do not process a venom of any kind.
The presence of venom considered to be a virus before 1840, was thought by the vast majority of scientists to be confined to the dorsal spines of the fish. It wasn't until Allman (1840) had the misfortune of being stung by the Opercular spine of the fish and recording the reaction that followed, that this theory was questioned. Allman wrote in a letter dated August 20 1840,
"On the 9th August 1839, I was wounded near the top of the thumb by Trachinus vipera, which had just taken in a seine of herrings, sand eels & co. The wound was inflicted by the spine attached to the gill covers during my attempt to seize the fish"
He then goes on to describe the pain sensation and symptoms experienced in the hand and wrist. Contained within the letter is a short description of the Opercular spine. Allman (1840) found the spine was grooved from the tip to the posterior edge of the bony part of the operculum. He also found a small pulpy mass which he suggested could possibly be of a glandular nature. Many scientists since have described the Opercular spine varying in detail but all essentially agreeing on the grooved structure and the presence of the small pulpy mass and in some cases describing this in detail with regards to position and structure. Parker (1888) describes the structure of the glands and possible method of venom delivery in two species of weever fish, T.draco and T.vipera.
In his paper he suggests that a possible method of venom delivery is that the cells simply burst and their contents pass up the groove in the spine to the exterior. This idea of the cells bursting is also mentioned by Skeie (1962) who describes these glands in detail. He also describes the secretion of toxin as that of the Holocrine type (without a venom duct, toxin passes directly from the cells to the spinal groove). The cellular contents were exuded as a "crude toxin which distinctly presented itself as a granular, stainable pulp.
In another paper Skeie (1962b) concentrates on the venom itself, mentioning that the toxicity of the secretion removed from the venom glands was varied having a toxicity between 2000 and 10.000 DML (number of lethal doses for mice) per ml when injected intravenously on white mice weighing between 16-18 grams. (Skeie:1962b) He further goes on to mention that generally speaking the venom of the weever has a similar toxicity to various species of common viper, Vipera aspis, Vipera ammodytes and Vipera berus.