Marine Species: Scorpionfish

A master of camouflage, there is much more to the scorpionfish than meets the eye.

A master of camouflage, there is much more to the scorpionfish than meets the eye.

What is a scorpionfish?

The name “scorpionfish” covers a wide family that includes species commonly known as scorpionfish, stonefish, lionfish, and more. Today we’ll take a closer peek at one branch of this family, the scorpaena, which includes most of the species that divers commonly refer to as scorpionfish.

As their name indicates, most species have a spine that produces venom and its sting can be painful, or even poisonous, so be sure to give these interesting looking creatures a wide berth.

Scorpionfish can grow up to 3 feet (1 m) long, and you’ll see most species camouflaged on the reef or on the ocean floor. They use their camouflage abilities to ambush their prey, such as smaller fish or other small creatures. They also have a wide mouth that can extend in order to swallow prey entirely.

Thanks to their venom they have few predators, although bigger species such as sharks or large snappers do eat scorpionfish. Their dorsal fins are typically packed with venom that causes pain and swelling, and because of this, humans do not widely eat them.

Where do they live?

Scorpionfish are spread widely across the oceans, living most commonly in the Indo-Pacific region. They tend to live on shallow reefs where food is abundant, but some species have been recorded deeper than 3,200 feet (1000 m). They are solitary and only congregate for mating. After doing so, a female will release thousands of eggs that will float up to the surface and hatch little scorpionfishes.

Where can I spot them?

They are common on many reefs worldwide; however their camouflage abilities can make them hard to spot. Their color pattern varies significantly from one species to another and they use it to blend with their environment. So when swimming along a reef, slow down and pay attention to those rock formations … you might find yourself eye to eye with a scorpionfish.