Spotted Scorpionfishes, Scorpaena plumieri (biology – camouflage – venom)

The photos were taken by Glenda Vélez Calabria at in mundo marino and te mostramos lo que pasa en el fondo, Colombia

Scientific review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal

General: The spotted scorpionfish, Scorpaena plumieri is also known as the pacific spotted scorpionfish, stone scorpionfish, stinging groupers, and spotted stone scorpionfish. The species is used as an aquarium fish and they are also eaten in local communities where they live. The spotted scorpionfishes have separate sexes.

Description: The spotted scorpionfish is one of the largest and most common scorpionfishes species. They have elongate body with head equipped with many spines and ridges. The length of the species can range from 18 – 36 cm with males can get up to 45cm and about 1.5kg. Their fleshy plumes over their eyes, as well as their skin flaps around their head and their mottled wide-range of brown to black coloring makes lead to the effective camouflage which make them blend with the surroundings into their habitats whether reef or rocky bottoms. The species has three dark bars on their tails. This species has brilliant white spots on a black background located on the topside of the pectoral fins. These spots are only visible when the fish is disturbed. This species has pressurized venom glands at the base of its dorsal fin where the poisonous spines in their fins are used for defense through injecting the venom upon the penetration of the spines; the venom is not deadly to humans.

Geographic distribution and habitats: Scorpionfishes, Scorpaena plumieri are usually found in sub-tropical climates in the Western Atlantic from Bermuda, Massachusetts, and the northern Gulf of Mexico to southern Brazil. They are also found in the Eastern Atlantic around Ascension and St. Helena.

Scorpionfishes commonly inhabit shallow coral reeds and are mostly found at depth range of 1-60 m. They prefer hard bottoms in rocky areas. They are most commonly found lying motionless and well camouflaged on the bottom blending in with the background.

Feeding habits: The Scorpaena plumieri are predators that feed nocturnally on fish, crabs, shrimp, and octopods. Their camouflage helps them to remain motionless undetected and wait for the prey to become within their striking distance. The wide mouth of the species enables them to suck and swallow the prey. The venom which the species has is not used for catching or killing the prey. On the other hand, the scorpionfish maybe preyed upon by large snappers, sharks, rays and moray eels.

Note: Because the species may remain motionless for long periods of time, considerable loads of crustaceans and algae often live on them. The shedding of their outer layer of the skin is performed by fish in order to get rid of these parasitic organisms.

References: MARINEBIO, Marine Species Identification Portal


Spotted scorpionfish (01) Spotted scorpionfish (02)



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