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Nature and Science

Published: 01/19/2008

Author: Fredy Brauchli

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Geographic data

Latitude: 12.8527 / N 12° 51.162'
Longitude: 120.75 / E 120° 45'

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Seltene grüne Färbung eines Drachenkopfes.


Rotfeuerfisch mit drohend abgespreizten Stacheln und Flossen in Frontalsicht.


Antennenfeuerfisch mit prächtig gezeichneten Brustflossen.


Fast vollständig im Sand vergrabener Steinfisch.


Rosa gefärbter Schaukelfisch, einer der kleinsten Vertreter aus der Familie der Skorpionsfische.

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Portrait of a Bearded Scorpion Fish Attentively Lurking at the Reef.

Portrait of a Bearded Scorpion Fish Attentively Lurking at the Reef.

Scorpion Fish

A favorite of all divers are the various species of Scorpionfish, a complex family with 10 subfamilies and more than 300 species. Many of these have venomous spines.

Scorpionfish or “Scorpaenidae” live in all zones of the world’s oceans, mostly however, in coral reefs und coastal regions of the tropics and in depths of up to 90 feet. However, some species can be found in cool and cold climate zones. The family of Scorpionfish cannot be exactly defined and to this day has been the matter of a controversial debate among scientists. It is known that about 80 of the 300 common species are “armed” with venomous spines on their fins. All have one characteristic in common: the bone bridge reaching from the eye across the jowl to the gill cover. Scorpionfish are relatively bad swimmers and live camouflaged as lie-in-wait hunters. For their defense, the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins of the Scorpionfish can bear venomous spines that can be extended in dangerous situations. Some species are camouflaged very well by body appendages and spotted patterns and are able to adapt their color to the ocean floor.

Subfamily of Dragonfish “Scorpaena”

The Dragonfish lacks a swim bladder. Thus it is a rather slow and less arduous swimmer. It employs a lie-in-wait strategy and is adapted to its surroundings waiting for its unsuspecting prey to swim by. Generally, it hunts for smaller fish or lower species. Once the prey is within reach it opens it’s giant mouth with a sudden jolt creating a vacuum and thus sucking it’s prey in giving it no chance to flee. Dragonfish cover the color spectrum from red, pink, and orange to brown, green, black, and white.

All species of Dragonfish have venomous spines on their dorsal (12), anal (3), and pelvic (2) fins. It is strongly suggested not to touch or rouse these creatures. If their spines penetrate human flesh venom enters the wound due to the pressure onto the venomous glands – an extremely painful experience.

Subfamily of Lionfish “Pteraidae”

Contrary to their well-camouflaged relatives the Lionfish - due to their flamboyant beauty - can be spotted easily. They live swimming afloat and are active at night lurking for their prey. When the Lionfish discovers a suitable prey it approaches slowly and spreads its anal fins far apart so that the prey cannot see the movements of its pelvic fin. Thus the movements do not alert the prey. The sucking action takes place with the speed of a split second so that other fish – for example swimming in the same school – do not even realize what is happening. This is how the Lionfish is able to fill its stomach unhurriedly. Sometimes the Lionfish spreads its pectoral fins and chases its prey toward rocks and coral walls to then swallow it.

Especially Ray-finned (Pterois radiata), Antennata and Dwarf Lionfish bear colorful fans on their pectoral fins. Their brilliant colors make these fish especially interesting for divers and snorkelers. Of course all of these fish are venomous as well. It is recommended that underwater photographers refrain from manually “arranging” a Lionfish to get an especially beautiful perspective. The best perspective for taking the best pictures is rather achieved by approaching the Lionfish very slowly from underneath.

Subfamily of Stonefish “Synanceidae”

The Stonefish are the most dangerous relatives within the family of Scorpionfish and they are masters of camouflage as well. Their fin rays are extremely venomous. If stung by a Stonefish the body part will quickly become swollen. Symptoms of severe pain, sweating, fever attacks, difficulty breathing and heart rate problems as well as muscle twitching, seizures and paralysis occur. Depending on the location of the sting, it can be deadly since the venom of some of the species is up to 50 times stronger than the venom of a common viper. An antidote is often not available leading to an annual death rate of 100 for accidents with Stonefish. Due to their perfect camouflage snorkelers and divers will rarely spot them at first glace.

Species of Leaf Scorpionfish “Taenianotus”

The Leaf Scorpionfish with their leafy body are less than 4 inches long and lurk at the bottom of the ocean. For camouflage they move slowly with the current resembling a leaf floating in the water. Thus their name Leaffish. The fish can change its color by casting its skin – from red to brown, yellow, green, and white and black. Due to their delicate nature many divers favor this species of Scorpionfish.