Scorpionfish species identification guide

Scorpionfish, the venomous beauty of the reef

More than 300 species of Scorpaenidae (a fish family that includes lionfish, stonefish, and scorpionfish) inhabit the world’s seas and oceans. A general characteristic of this family is to have venomous spines, mainly situated in their dorsal fin, which can cause very serious injuries and be potentially lethal.

These fish are fortunately neither aggressive nor fast. However, scorpionfish are one of the main reasons why it is recommended not to step on the seabed or on rocks when snorkeling.

The stonefish can blend in so perfectly with their surroundings that even snorkelers may have trouble seeing them on the seabed. Here, in Lagon de l’Hermitage seagrass meadows, Réunion Island.

Some scorpionfish, like the stonefish, the most venomous fish in the world, are indeed camouflage masters. Others, such as lionfish, with their beautiful wing-shaped fins, are some of the most elegant fish in the world.

Where do scorpionfish species live?

The famous stonefish can be seen from the coasts of East Africa to the South Pacific. The leaf scorpionfish, which occurs from South Africa to the Galápagos Islands, and often adorned with vibrant colors (yellow, red, or purple), is a great subject for underwater photographers.

Lionfish invasion in the Caribbean

Placid and majestic, lionfish are easy to encounter throughout the Indo-Pacific. Pterois miles (present from the Red Sea to Sumatra) and Pterois volitans (which replaces it from Malaysia to the Pitcairn Islands) are almost indistinguishable from each other.

These two species have become invasive in the Caribbean (where the most likely pathway of introduction is aquarium releases) and the southeastern Mediterranean (in which some individuals entered via the Suez Canal), where their voracity is a serious threat to local marine ecosystems.

Caribbean & Western Atlantic scorpionfish species

Indian and Pacific Oceans scorpionfish species

Mediterranean & Eastern Atlantic scorpionfish species

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