Video credit: Mohamed Hassan (Egypt)
Review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal (Founder of the video channel)
This video was filmed in the Red Sea, Marsa Alam
Introduction: Scorpionfish are marine fish that belong to the family scorpaenidae that includes many of the world’s most venomous species. The family has several genus and more than 200 identified species. As the name tells, scorpionfish have a type of “sting” in the form of sharp spines coated with venomous mucus. The Bearded Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis barbata) is most likely the species shown here.
Distribution and habitats: Scorpion fish are found in the Western Indian Ocean: Red Sea to at least the coast of Somalia. They live along sandy beaches, rocky coastlines and coral reefs and in shallow waters.
Description: Bearded scorpionfishes, Scorpaenopsis barbata, is dull in color and is characterized by its heavily pigmented dark brown or reddish brown color, mottled with whitish and blackish blotches. Its name refers to the fleshy outgrowth of skin protruding from its chin. They have a wide mouth and broad spiny head and venom glands that may occur at the base of fin spines which can produce deep and painful wounds. The feathery fins which cover the scorpion fish body help in the camouflaging of the animals into the surrounding coral. Also, the coral- like frilly, fleshy flaps of skin protruding from its chin add to the species camouflage ability and help the fish to blend with its surroundings.
Feeding habits: Like others in its family, Scorpaenidae, the Bearded Scorpionfish is an ambush nocturnal predator. They rest during the daylight in crevices in the corals and from their position they suddenly leap at their un-suspecting prey which could be small fish and crustaceans. The species may also create suction by rapidly opening the mouth to draw the prey in. Scorpion fish are able to stun their prey using their venom. The opportunistic hunting performed by scorpionfish is supported by their camouflage to get close to prey unnoticed before striking rapidly. Also, the big mouth of the species allows –when wide open- to engulf its meal in a big gulp. On the other hand, the scorpion fish has very few natural predators.
Reproduction and life cycle: The scorpion fish reach their sexual maturity at about 3 years of age. The female scorpion fish releases between 2,000 and 15,000 eggs into the water which are fertilized by the male scorpion fish. Immediately after, they pair hide in order for their spawning is not noticed and hence their eggs can float before being spotted by egg predators. The scorpion fish eggs hatch in about 2 days into tiny fry that remain near the water surface until they grow bigger and they reach nearly about 5-cm in length, they swim down into the ocean to join the reef community.
Threats: Keeping the scorpionfish in tanks and artificial aquariums around is considered a major threat to the scorpion fish populations; especially many hobbyists are interested in the appearance and behavior of the species leading to it’s over catch. Moreover, the habitat loss from the destruction of coral reefs adds to the threats. Also, even though it is not common that scorpionfish to be preyed upon, large fish and sea lions are also known to hunt scorpion fish.