Spotted Scorpionfishes, Scorpaena plumieri
Taxonomy Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Scorpaeniformes Scorpaenidae Scorpaena plumieri
Description & Behavior
Spotted scorpionfishes, Scorpaena plumieri (Bloch, 1789), aka gurnards, lion fishes, Pacific spotted scorpionfishes, prickly hinds, St. Ann's bays, and stinging groupers, are formidable looking creatures underwater particularly given that these creatures have venomous spines used for defense. These scorpionfishes have very effective camouflage capabilities. They have fleshy plumes (cirri) over their eyes, which combined with the characteristic skin flaps around their head and their mottled wide-range of brown coloring makes them blend into reef or rocky bottoms so that they become virtually invisible. This species also has brilliant white spots on black on the insides of their pectoral fins (hence their name) which are only displayed when threatened or swimming. Another distinctive feature includes three dark bars on their tails.
World Range & Habitat
Spotted scorpionfishes, Scorpaena plumieri, can be found in the Western Atlantic from Bermuda, Massachusetts, and the northern Gulf of Mexico to southern Brazil. In the Eastern Atlantic they are found around Ascension and St. Helena.
They most commonly inhabit shallow coral reefs but are found in all bottom habitats. They are most commonly found lying motionless blending in with the background between depths of 5 m to at least 55 m.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
Spotted scorpionfishes feed mostly on other fish and crustaceans. They are ambush predators using their camouflage to remain undetected by prey until they are within striking distance. This species has a wide, cavernous mouth used to quickly suck in and swallow prey. Predators of spotted scorpionfish include large snappers, sharks, rays and moray eels.
Data on the reproductive behavior of spotted scorpionfishes is limited, however it is known that their minimum population doubling time is more than 14 years.
Conservation Status & Comments
The white spots on the topside of the pectoral fins of spotted scorpionfishes, Scorpaena plumieri, are visible when the animal is disturbed. Like other scorpionfishes, this species has pressurized venom glands at the base of its dorsal fin.
Scorpionfishes inject their venom into predators through their dorsal spines upon penetration. Their venom causes severe pain but is not usually fatal to humans, however medical treatment should be sought immediately for victims. Divers can avoid contact by not resting on the bottom or reefs and being very careful where they put their hands.
References & Further Research
Randall, J.E., 1967. Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Stud. Trop. Oceanogr. Miami 5:665-847.
Humann, P., Deloach, N. 2002. Reef Fish Identification Florida Caribbean Bahamas, 3rd edition, New World Publications, Inc. 480 p.
Research Scorpaena plumieri » Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS
Feedback & Citation
Start or join a discussion about this species below or send us an email to report any errors or submit suggestions for this page. We greatly appreciate all feedback!
Help Protect and Restore Ocean Life
Help us protect and restore marine life by supporting our various online community-centered marine conservation projects that are effectively sharing the wonders of the ocean with millions each year around the world, raising a balanced awareness of the increasingly troubling and often very complex marine conservation issues that affect marine life and ourselves directly, providing support to marine conservation groups on the frontlines that are making real differences today, and the scientists, teachers and students involved in the marine life sciences.
With your support, most marine life and their ocean habitats can be protected, if not restored to their former natural levels of biodiversity. We sincerely thank our thousands of members, donors and sponsors, who have decided to get involved and support the MarineBio Conservation Society.