Scorpionfish – Scorpionidae – are named after the dangerous arthropods for a reason – they are also on the list of the world’s most venomous creatures. The family of Scorpaenidae is very large, comprising almost 400 members in 45 genera, widespread across the world’s temperate seas and tropical salt waters, concentrated mainly in the Indo-Pacific region, and there still are new species discovered every now and then (the latest one was discovered near Curacao in the Caribbean in summer, 2016).
Scorpionfish – Scorpaenidae – can act dangerous and they look dangerous, too. They are small, with an average length of 6 cm, the largest of them being around 20 cm long. They have a large, fierce-looking head with ridges and spines protruding and about 8-10 further ridges and spines protruding from the rest of their compressed bodies. The venomous glands are distributed at the base of the spines that form their anal, dorsal and pelvic fins. Their bodies are camouflaged with warts and spots bearing the color of the surrounding stones or corals. Thus, they help the animals blend perfectly into their environment.
These colorful, warty creatures are solitary and quite timid – they could be aggressive, they have the weapons, but they are usually not belligerent, preferring to blend into their surroundings, rather than attack. When they are attacked or they feel threatened, they first try to scare away their attacker by spreading their dorsal spines, then they try to escape by fleeing or by burying themselves quickly in the sand, resorting to stinging only if nothing else works.
Scorpaenidae are not choosy when it comes to food – they eat small crustaceans, fish, snails and other small creatures that live around coral reefs. They ambush their prey lightning-fast and swallow it with equal velocity. After they grab their prey, their strong mouths create a vacuum that sucks in the victim and transfers it directly to the esophagus. The little guys are equally efficient when it comes to reproduction – females lay 2,000-15,000 eggs in one go, most of them being fertilized by the male. The fertilized eggs need only 2 days to reach the hatching stage. The juvenile scorpionfish (Scorpaenidae) swim freely on the water surface until they grow to the length of about 2 cm, when they return to the deeper layers of the water and search for a suitable reef portion to settle in.