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Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Scorpionfish

“Scorpaena plumieri”

The Scorpionfish are highly poisonous in nature. As the name suggests and like a Scorpion, Scorpionfish have a type of “sting” in the form of sharp spines coated with venomous mucus. There are about 380 species spread across 48 genera known to us. While most of these belong to the saltwater habitat, there are a few that live in freshwater habitats. Some of the most prominent members of the family are Stonefish, Lionfish, Dragonfish, Firefish, Turkeyfish and Stingfish. As for the characteristic features of the family, they include a highly compressed body, large mouth, spines on the head, operculum, preopercle and the dorsal & pectoral fins. The most distinctive feature of a Scorpionfish, is that it “stings” with the help of its sharp spines. These fish are not violent, but very gentle. If they are threatened though, they protrude their dorsal spines in order to defend themselves. Since the lifestyle of Scorpionfish is sedentary, cyanobacteria, algae and other parasites are often seen thriving on them. In this case, the ability to shed their outer skin layer helps them get rid of the attached organisms. They have a large, heavily ridged head that is covered with spines and a compressed body.

Scorpionfish are attractively colored (brown or reddish-brown) and have the ability to camouflage themselves by changing their color to match their surrounding environment. Sometimes they look like pieces of corals or rocks and thus, are often misidentified. The phenomenon of changing colors helps them attack their prey and defend themselves. Scorpionfish usually inhabit shallow waters, but a few species are even known to reside at a depth of 7,200 feet. They are solitary in nature and reside in caves, crevices and among the coral reefs. Scorpionfish have a typical way of feeding. Normally, they wait for their prey to come across them. Once the prey passes, they create vacuum with their mouth and suck their prey in. This happens within a fraction of a second and the prey has no time to react. They possess jaw teeth and feed on crustaceans, small fish & cephalopods. The Scorpionfish is oviparous, i.e., they lay eggs. They produce a gelatinous, floating mass in which the eggs are embedded and usually breed in late spring or early summer.

 

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