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Florida's Dangerous Saltwater Creatures

Barbara loves swimming and snorkeling in Florida. She loves to share her knowledge of dangerous creatures to keep her readers safe!

While Florida is beautiful, it is also home to some scary creatures!

While Florida is beautiful, it is also home to some scary creatures!

Florida Is Home to Dangerous Animals!

Unequivocally, there is no place I'd rather be than in Florida, where I can swim, snorkel, and dive in the saltwater that surrounds two-thirds of its peninsula. Still, I watch for Florida's dangerous saltwater creatures because we share the same space. And it is their home I am visiting, so it pays to be savvy as I enjoy one of my greatest pleasures.

As we were collecting shells and exploring the life that lived under the blue-green waters of Florida, we learned about and how to respect the sea residents.

The beautiful Miami Beach in Florida!

The beautiful Miami Beach in Florida!

How I Learned My Lesson

We were lucky to enjoy some beautiful private strips of secluded beaches that did not have lifeguards, so we swam at our own risk. which was lacking in good judgment on our part. However,we enjoyed our own private fun in the sun on the beach. That is, until my Daddy discovered where we had gone and said goodbye to the fun and our private beach in the sun.

But that did not stop us from traveling to other beaches with my convertible top down.

With all the beauty we found below the surface, we wanted gills implanted so we could stay forever. However, our paradise below the surface had some marine life that we needed to be aware of and respect their boundaries. I accidentally stepped on jellyfish more than once; the feeling is not one I relish experiencing again.

Beach Safety Tips for Kids & Adults – The American Red Cross

Deadly Florida Animals

We watched for any unfriendly or dangerous creatures. To stay safe, it is best not to touch any strange animals, shells, or plants. Remember, we are the underwater visitors as we invade their territory!

From my own personal experience, here are creatures that you should be aware of when you are in Florida waters!

The alligator courtship season runs from April to June.

The alligator courtship season runs from April to June.


Alligators' courtship begins in April and runs through May and June.

People floating down the river in tubs or canoes should be very careful during this time. Florida is beautiful but can be a dangerous place. Be aware when you are around or in the water. I would not float down the river until I checked with a game warden first.

Always be prepared and do not always trust a float rental business about the safety of the area. A game warden is easy to call. Do your due diligence and then have fun in the Florida sun.

Although alligators cannot live in saltwater for long periods of time, experts say the animals can survive for more than a few hours or a couple of days at the most. Always be aware of your surroundings and what creatures you are sharing the water with every time you enter.

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Barracudas can and will attack humans.

Barracudas can and will attack humans.


Barracudas are audacious and curious creatures that are dangerous to humans. They will assault swimmers, divers, or snorkelers. Their size varies from small to up to six feet. They are found in warm tropical seawater.

However, we have found them in creeks, ponds, and in the hammocks of Florida, so beware in freshwater as well. These are fierce-looking creatures with long, sharp teeth, and they are not afraid of humans.

In the sea or freshwater, do not wear anything shiny. It attracts them, and they think it is feeding time. A lifeguard once told Marti and me years ago not to wear anything shiny because it fascinated sharks, so we left our jewelry at home.

Beautiful colors that can kill!

Beautiful colors that can kill!

Blue-ringed Octopus

The attack of this tiny creature can prove deadly, and there is no known antidote for it.

While the various colors are beautiful, never touch them and keep your distance. Blue-ringed octopuses can camouflage their skin color and show off their bright fluorescent rings when they become confused or angry.

Florida sightings report instances of the blue-ringed octopus, so it is wise to use caution and not to touch any creatures of the sea.

Box Jellyfish

Boxes of Death, commonly known as Box Jellyfish, are a chief risk for divers, swimmers, and snorkelers. These jellies have killed more humans than sharks, crocodiles, and stonefish combined.

These jellyfish are so fragile that even a tiny shrimp might rip through their delicate bodies, so their only defense is a powerful poison. Jellyfish do not hunt for their food but rely on nourishment to collide into their tentacles. Box Jellyfish are fast swimmers and can swim up to 8 feet per minute.

A box jellyfish has 60 tentacles that are five feet in length and are organized into four clusters at the corners of a box-shaped bell. The bell could be as large as a volleyball. Its tentacles have up to 5 million stinging nematocysts. They have 24 eyes and are the most well-known jellyfish for having the closest brain to any other jellyfish.

Annually, in late summer, the mature box jellyfish spawns at the mouths of rivers before dying. In the spring, these polyps burst into tiny jellyfish that travel down rivers into beaches where people enjoy the saltwater, unaware that these cute jellyfish are hazardous.

These shells come in many shapes and sizes.

These shells come in many shapes and sizes.

Cone Snail Sea Shells

The snail that occupies the pretty cone shells transports a deadly toxin capable of killing humans; capable of killing 700 people to be exact.

Some call them the silent assassins, drugging sleeping fish before injecting their poison.

The good news for humans is that the cone snails hunt at night and are mainly found (per the current data) in Australia and tropical waters.

However, we know that species known for specific zones migrate to many places, so wear thick-soled shoes when walking in saltwater.

There are over 600 known species, so one can never be too careful.

Crown of Thorns Starfish

Crown of thorns Starfish have thorns (sharp spines) surrounded by poisonous skin, and if a human becomes pierced with one or inserted and it breaks off, it will cause vomiting and swelling. Get emergency treatment right away!

These starfish are a significant danger to our reefs as they are coral eaters and have been a major menace to the Great Barrier Reef for years.

In some areas, divers harvest them to spare our coral reefs.

Irukandjis are majestic!

Irukandjis are majestic!


The Irukandjis are a relative of the box jellyfish, but not as deadly. These jellyfish are tiny and are seen more in the summertime months.

If stung, it can cause one’s blood pressure to rise dangerously. However, there is no recorded data for Irukandjis being responsible for any deaths. The sting is minor, but after 20 minutes or more, the victim can develop severe pain, lasting for hours.

Never ignore a sting! Get out of the water at once since it can affect your diving ability if not taken care of immediately.

Fishermen often capture these fish since they are invasive.

Fishermen often capture these fish since they are invasive.


Lionfish have invaded the Atlantic Ocean from the data collected in the past two years. Their poisonous fin rays are hazardous to swimmers, fishermen, divers, and snorkelers. If pricked by a lionfish, one can experience vomiting, dizziness, heart failure, and even death.

Many divers harvest the lionfish as they are dangerous to humans and other species. It is an ongoing challenge to keep our beaches and reefs free of them.

Eels look scary but normally stay away from people.

Eels look scary but normally stay away from people.

Moray Eels

Based on current data, these eels will bite divers during feedings or when they think that a diver might have food in their hand.

They should respect their area when making videos or taking underwater pictures because they are fast and can fit one’s entire hand in their mouth.

They are very dangerous when angry, but they are usually shy and try to hide from any divers.

The lesson here is, do not feed the residents of the sea! Like any animal, they can get used to being fed by some divers and expect it when they see one.

Flower Sea Urchin

The most dangerous type of urchin is the flower sea urchin, which is very beautiful as its appearance seems to be a flower. The flowers are poison forceps which will cause paralysis and even death. Current data shows several people have been killed by the flower sea urchin.

Remember, look but do not touch.

You don't want to mess with a croc!

You don't want to mess with a croc!


Yes, there are crocodiles in Florida, so be aware of them!

Crocodiles are the largest living members of the evolved large reptiles that lived 3.5 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.

They can grow to 22 feet in length and are hazardous to swimmers, divers, and snorkelers in saltwater.

These endangered reptiles kill and hurt people every year. Reports state that crocodiles are more vicious than alligators because they will chase their prey, even if it is human.

Sharks will smell blood from a mile away!

Sharks will smell blood from a mile away!


I will give a shark all the territory it wants. I do not wear jewelry or anything shiny when I am in saltwater. Sharks can see in color, and their eyesight becomes enhanced at night, so it is very dangerous for night diving.

One should never wear orange or yellow and never swim with even the most minor cut on your body. Sharks have an intense sense of smell and will attack.

Splashing and vibrations in the water attract sharks. This probably explains why so many swimmers are attacked on Florida's beautiful beaches during the summer months.

Some scientists believe that sharks attack surfers because they appear similar to sea lions or seals. Others think that divers in black suits look like prey.

When I was seven years old, I accidentally caught a baby hammerhead shark in the Gulf. It had short hair, and it was soft like a puppy. It was about 10 inches long, and I wanted to keep it, but my Daddy told me to return it to its mother. It was so cute, and it was a beautiful shade of grey. So, I gently put it back in the water, and it swam away to its mother.

Stinging Coral aka Fire Coral

Fire coral is also known as stinging coral, and it is a living organism!

This type of coral groups together in colonies. The hard coral-like skeleton fluctuates from large leaves to finger-like bony branched horns. And in colors ranging from shades of yellow, green, to brown. The effects of their sting are similar to hydroid stings.

Don't get too close to their tails.

Don't get too close to their tails.


Stingrays can kill humans with their long whipped tails with one or two spines. The sharp spines can cut through a diver’s suit, injecting their poison.

Proven data provided concurs that 2/3 of stingrays are poisonous and can kill a human if struck in the chest.

Many can travel in groups of hundreds close to the beaches of Florida, so swim where a lifeguard can alert swimmers, surfers, and snorkelers.

Stingrays range from small to very large, so be aware of them and do not bother or get too close while below the surface.

When in their home, show respect and give them plenty of room.

Stonefish really do look like stone!

Stonefish really do look like stone!


The stonefish looks like a rock on the sea bottom, but it is deadly, with 13 poisonous spines on its back. It feeds on small fish and shrimp. Stonefish are found in sand in narrow channels connecting the open sea with a lagoon or tidal inlet.

Never touch it and walk carefully and wear thick-soled shoes. Be careful exploring these inlets, especially when looking under rocks or turning them over. It's best to do what I do; use a stick or the pointed end of a cane fishing pole.

People have reported the pain from a stonefish might last for hours. And, temporary paralysis, shock, and even death may result. So be very careful when exploring and looking for shells. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and knowing the risks is simply good precautionary measures.


White Cuvierian Tubules

When handled, these creatures can become angry and expel a poison that can cause blindness if rubbed into the eyes.

Wise Below-the-Surface Rules

IAll divers, swimmers, and snorkelers should remember three important rules.

  1. Always use the "Buddy System": never swim, dive, or snorkel alone in the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico around Florida or anywhere else for that matter. Make it a rule to look only at and never touch anything below the surface. Beauty can kill or make you sick—so please adhere to this rule. Use your camera to capture the moment and stay safe. Never go into sunken ships or boats because the risk is too great. For example, one may become trapped by a fallen object or the current can shift the vessel's position, becoming a danger to divers.

My dad made me memorize this at an early age when we went to the beach on vacation; I was seven years old.

A portrait of Jacques Cousteau.

A portrait of Jacques Cousteau.

A Special Tribute to Jacques Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau was an inventor who brought the beautiful underwater world to our attention. He was the reason I loved to explore the waters around Florida.

I value everything that has his touch and label on it. He made the underwater paradise more accessible to humans with his initial exploration.

Thank you for making more of the world available to seafarers.

© 2013 Barbara Purvis Hunter


Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on August 23, 2020:

Thank you for your visit, I hope all is well and stay safe.

Bobbi Purvis

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 23, 2020:

Very informative and well presented. Thanks.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on August 06, 2020:

Thanks for the visit and stay safe. Florida is the best place to live in my opinion.

Bobbi Purvis

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on August 06, 2020:

Hi, Thanks for the visit, and yes the covid 19 has changed everyone's life. Stay safe.

Bobbi Purvis

Gregory Floro from Tagaytay, Philippines on August 05, 2020:

very informative, but covid has changed everything

JC Scull on January 08, 2020:

Very nice article. You gotta love Florida....the best state.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on February 17, 2016:


Hi and I am sorry that happened to you. The same thing happened to me with a Jellyfish when I was 12 years old. It was red for awhile after the lifeguard or medic put some kind of salve on it. I lived at the beach during the summertime as much as possible,

Have a great week,

Bobbi Purvis

moonlake from America on February 16, 2016:

I was once stung by a Portuguese man of war. It sure hurt I was just a kid on the beach in California. I thought it looks like carbon paper. It looked like that to me and I went to take it out of the water. That's when it stung me. Great hub because I think many people who don't live in Florida don't know about all these dangers.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on July 31, 2015:

Hi rawspirit,

Thanks for taking the time to visit and read my hub. I hope you have a great weekend.

Bobbi Purvis

Robert Morgan from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ on July 31, 2015:

Thanks for the good read. Blessings

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on September 20, 2014:


I never stay out of the water but I am aware of what to watch out for in the ocean. I do stay out of fresh water unless I am scuba diving but for just swimming---it scares me.

Thanks for your visit and comment. Have a great weekend.

Bobbi Purvis

poetryman6969 on September 20, 2014:

Florida is paradise--if you stay out of the water. Even fresh water there has brain eating amoebas.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on August 06, 2014:

Hi rick,

I will check this out and I appreciate you taking the time to inform me.


Bobbi Purvis

rick on August 05, 2014:

In the Stonefish section, the video you link to, although titled Stonefish at Bahi Honda, is actually a Batfish, as one of the commenters on the video page points out.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 25, 2014:

Hi PegCole 17,

Nice to hear from Texas and I hope your weather is nice for a day at the beach. Florida is such a wonderful place to live surrounded by my favorite salt water and it residents. It does pay to be alert and knowledgeable about the sea.

Thanks for your visit,

Bobbi Purvis

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on June 25, 2014:

Hi Bobbi, This article reminds me so much of living in the Florida Keys and swimming at Bahia Honda beach way back when. The whirlpools on one side of the bridge were treacherous as well as the sea life that could be found everywhere. But it was beautiful! We ran across many Stingrays and jellyfish, barracudas and other marine life. It pays to be careful where you step.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on March 26, 2014:

Hi Neo,

Thanks for sharing with us. It is wonderful to hear from a diver. Happy diving.

Bobbi Purvis

Neo on March 12, 2014:

I'm a diver who lives in FL, and there are many dangers in the water, but if you pay close attention your chances of stings, ect.. are heavily reduced. I remember when I was little -picks up pretty shell- EEEEK! -drops on foot- DOUBLE EEEK. I though I was about to get stung by a cone shell! Fortunately it didn't even protrude it's proboscis.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on August 11, 2013:

Hi Audrey,

It is great to have you visit. Sometimes the most beautiful is the most dangerous--sad but true.

Have a great new week.


Audrey Howitt from California on August 11, 2013:

Wow! What a great hub! I particularly loved the Crown of Thorns starfish!!

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 30, 2013:

Hi MartieCoetser,

It is great to hear from you and I hope all is well in your part of the world. Thanks you for your kind words. I love the beaches around Florida---but I am aware what sea residents to leave alone.

Have a great Sunday.

Bobbi Purvis

Martie Coetser from South Africa on June 30, 2013:

Florida has stunning beaches - reminds me of the Seashell Island’s.

This is one of the most interesting hubs I’ve read in a long time, thank you PurvisBobbi. Those animals in the see are fascinating, but I surely don’t have the guts to go swim in their habitat. Therefor I appreciate pictures and videos of them.

Voted up and awesome!

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 29, 2013:

Hi Nell Rose,

Thanks for your visit and now you know what to look for when you go diving. Thanks for your comment.

Have a great Sunday.

Bobbi Purvis

Nell Rose from England on June 29, 2013:

Wow! I don't know where to start! those Barracudas are so dangerous, and I never even knew you had the blue ringed octopus there! I remember seeing a tv program about Australia and knew they were there, but Florida? amazing! this was so interesting, and the info was fascinating! voted up and shared! nell

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 22, 2013:

Hi midget38,

Thanks for the visit and comment. Yes---the unknown is dangerous---but if you are aware then you can be prepared. Have a great weekend.

Bobbi Purvis

Michelle Liew from Singapore on June 21, 2013:

Wow. Swimming can be a little dangerous! Thanks for the information, Bobbi!

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 21, 2013:

Hi Elias,

I am sure every state and country has things one should be aware of in order to stay safe. Do not let anything stop you from living and enjoying life.

Thanks for your visit and comment---have a great Friday.

Bobbi Purvis

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on June 21, 2013:

Very interesting and informative hub, Bobbi. Never been to Florida but it's definitely a destination I would love to visit in the future. It's good to be aware of some possible dangers so as to be careful. However I have to admit that I felt a chill down my spine as I was going through your list with these strange and potentially dangerous creatures :) Voted and pinned.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 20, 2013:

Hi Pamela,

Thanks for the visit and comment. Jellyfish sting is more than enough---and I for one will always watch out for the others.

Have a great Friday.

Bobbi Purvis

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 20, 2013:

I live in FL so many of the creatures are familiar to me, but I the most dangerous thing I have run into is a jellyfish, thank goodness. This was a very thorough hub and very interesting.

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 19, 2013:

Hi bravewarrior,

I suppose since I was born in Florida and my Grandfather Knight was a hunter I learned at an early not to be afraid of animals. So I enjoy everything about Florida---not the bad weather of course---but everything else about it.

Thanks for your comment I enjoyed it very much.

Have a great Wednesday.


Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 19, 2013:

Hi Billy,

Life is to live---not be afraid. If you can teach in Alaska---you can vacation in Florida. Thanks for your visit and have a great Wednesday.

Your Friend,


Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 19, 2013:

Bobbi, as a resident of Florida since 1976, I'm aware of the dangers of the sea. The population of sharks and Man of War have escalated over the years. Just last night there was a feature on the news about an alligator that was found in the ocean. His snout was taped, so apparently he escaped capture from another area - probably a pool nearby.

I don't go in the ocean anymore. My belief is that's their home and if they don't appreciate my being there, they'll surely let me know! However, I do love boating, although I haven't done that in a while either.

Florida is a great place to live. Lately tho the summers come too soon and too extreme. Unless you have a pool in your yard, too often you're forced indoors. I hate being boxed in, but the Central Florida stifling heat, due to no ocean breezes coming through, have proven to be a real damper.

And Bill's right. We have some hellacious critters in this state! From mosquitoes to American Burying Beetles that eat dead birds and rodents to the larger than life reptiles, spiders and such sometimes I wonder....

When it comes down to it, I miss rolling hills, rich dirt and the changing seasons but I don't miss snow in the least. So, I'll just bear with the heat and make the best of life!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 19, 2013:

I'd like to visit one day, Bobbi, but honestly I could never live there. There are too many weird creatures above ground and below water. LOL And then there are those hurricanes....sheez, I could never relax there. :)

Loved the pictures and information on the odd creatures. Well done my friend.


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