1 minute read


Scorpionfish are ray-finned bony marine fish belonging to the family Scorpaenidae. Most of the 300 species of scorpionfish live in the seas around North America. A major anatomical characteristic of scorpionfish is a bony structure extending from the eye to the operculum or gill cover. The common name of scorpionfish refers to the spiny condition of the members of this family which includes extremely venomous fishes, many of which are colored red.

The plumed scorpionfish, Scorpaena grandicornis, of the Atlantic derives its name from the spines and fleshy outgrowths around its head that superficially resemble the shaggy mane of a lion. The first dorsal fin bears a series of heavy sharp spines of which the most anterior ones are hollow and contain poison glands at their base.

A lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Coral Sea. JLM Visuals. Reproduced by permission.

The plumed scorpionfish is relatively small, ranging from 6-12 in (15-30.5 cm) and is found in the subtropical seas from Florida to the Caribbean.

The western representative of this group is the California scorpionfish, S. guttata, which is found off the coast of California. They can reach 1.5 ft (0.5 m) in length, and are a red color dorsally, grading gradually to pink below. California scorpionfish are a favorite of sport fishermen but dangerous to catch because of 12 pointed spines on the dorsal fin.

The deadliest species of scorpionfish are found in the Indo-Pacific region. The stonefish (genus Syanceja) may lurk on coral reefs or on rocky bottoms in shallow water. Venom injected from the hollow spine (like a hypodermic needle) may result in extreme pain which may persist for a long time, frequently resulting in death.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Jean-Paul Sartre Biography to Seminiferous tubules