Spotted Scorpionfish

Scorpaena Plumieri



Kingdom Animalia

Phylum Chordata

Subphylum Vertebrata

Superclass Osteichthyes

Class Actinopterygii       

Subclass Neopterygii

Infraclass Teleostei

Superorder Acanthopterygii

Order Scorpaeniformes

Suborder Scorpaenoidei

Family Scorpaenidae

Common names

The Scorpaena plumieri is generally known as the spotted scorpionfish but it is also known as the pacific spotted scorpionfish, stone scorpionfish, and spotted stone scorpionfish.


The Scorpaena plumieri is one of the largest and most common of the scorpionfishes in the Atlantic and Caribbean. They are camouflaged with fleshy plumes (cirri) over the eyes, characteristic skin flaps around the head, and a mottled wide-range of brown coloring, making them blend into the reef or rocky bottoms. One highly noticeable characteristic of the Scorpaena plumieri is the venomous spines that it uses for defense. They have pressurized venom glands at the base of their dorsal fin that injects venom upon penetration of the spines. They also have brilliant white spots on a black background on the insides of the pectoral fins. This is where it gets its name “spotted” from. However, these spots are only displayed if the fish feels threatened or is swimming. The Scorpaena plumieri have three dark bars on their tail fin. They also have a wide, cavernous mouth that is used to quickly suck in and swallow prey (MarineBio). They each have 12 dorsal spines, 10 dorsal soft rays, 3 anal spines, 5 anal soft rays, an occipital pit, and 3 to 4 spines on the part of preorbital that overlaps the maxillary (Froese). The Scorpaena plumieri generally get to be 18-36cm in length and the males can get up to 45cm and 1.55kg (MarineBio). Their color is variable, but is commonly a drab mottled mixture of gray, brown, red, and black (OceanOasis).

For a video revealing the white fin spots, follow the link below.

Life History/Ecology

Scorpaena plumieri are found in the Western Atlantic from Bermuda, Massachusetts, and the northern Gulf of Mexico to southern Brazil. They are also found in the Eastern Atlantic around Ascension and St. Helena (MarineBio). They usually live in a subtropical climate range from 41°N to 21°S and at a depth of 1 to 55m (Froese). They may live singly or in pairs around inshore rock walls and sandy bottoms. They prefer hard bottoms, though (TheJump).

Data on the reproductive behavior of the Scorpaena plumieri is limited. However, it is known that their minimum population doubling time is more than 14 years (MarineBio), they have separate sexes, and they have live young.

The Scorpaena plumieri are ambush predators that feed nocturnally on other fish and crustaceans (MarineBio). They feed primarily on fish, crabs, shrimp, and octopods—or basically any animal they find that will fit in their mouth (TheJump). They sit very still on the ocean bottom, lying in wait for their prey to come near.  Then, they use their wide, cavernous mouth to quickly suck in and swallow the prey (MarineBio). Though they have venom, the scorpionfish only uses it for protection and not for catching or killing prey (WildSingapore).

Because the Scorpaena plumieri remain motionless for long periods of time, the scorpionfish often have lots of parasites such as algae and crustaceans living on them. They get rid of these by shedding their outer layer of skin (ItsNature). They also have adapted pelvic fins which enable them to walk on the ocean floor for when they are moving (My Reef Guide).

Though the Scorpaena plumieri are able to charge at considerable speeds, they are not aggressive and they prefer to hide or swim away. The best way to avoid being stung is to simply not disturb or touch one (WildSingapore). If you do happen to get stung, it is recommended that you immerse your injury into very hot water to help alleviate the pain (OceanOasis). Thankfully, the venom is not deadly to humans but you should still seek immediate medical attention. (MarineBio)

A Summary of Recent Research

A lot of the research surrounding the spotted scorpionfish has to do with its venom. One such study investigated the results of the stonefish antivenom on neutralizing the effects of some toxic activities of the spotted scorpionfish venom. Mice and rats were used in the study and it was concluded that the Scorpionfish venom possessed similar biochemical and antigenic properties as the stonefish venom (Gomes et al., 2011).

In 2010, a study was published showing the cardiovascular effects of the venom of Scorpaena plumier. It showed that the venom does indeed induce disorders in the cardiovascular system and that the alpha1 and beta-adrenergic receptors along with the vascular endothelium are at least partially involved in these effects. When doses where given to rats, they saw an increase in the mean atrial pressure followed by a sudden hypotension and eventual death with the highest doses of 338ug protein/kg. The lower doses showed an onset of coronary issues including coronary vasoconstriction (Andrich et al, 2010).

Some other interesting researches include one published in 2005 covering the biological properties of the venom from Scorpaena plumieri. In this article, Figueiredo et al. gave the first report of the isolation and characterization of a scorpionfish venom protease (Carrijo et al., 2011). Another study documented 23 accidents caused by scorpionfish in order to study the clinical effects of the venom on its victims (Haddadjr et al., 2003). Finally, scorpionfish have been used to study calcium translocation during swimbladder muscle reaction and contraction (Suzuki et al, 2004).

Economic/Ecological Service

The Scorpaena plumier are used as an aquarium fish and they are eaten locally where they live (Froese).

Personal Interest

Never having been around fish much, I had no idea what fish to do research on. I chose the Spotted Scorpionfish because it sounded really cool and dangerous. I was not disappointed.


Andrich, F., Carnielli, J.B.T., Cassoli, J.S., Lautner, R.Q., Santos, R.A.S., Pimenta, A.M.C., de Lima, M.E., Figueiredo, S.G. "A potent vasoactive cytolysin isolated from Scorpaena plumieri scorpionfish venom." Toxicon 56.4 (2010): 487-496. Science & Technology Collection. EBSCO. Web. 26 May 2011.

Carrijo, Linda C.; Andrich, Filipe; de Lima, Maria Elena; Cordeiro, Marta N.; Richardson, Michael; Figueiredo, Suely G. "Biological properties of the venom from the scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri) and purification of a gelatinolytic protease." Toxicon 45.7 (2005): 843-850. Science& Technology Collection. EBSCO. Web. 26 May 2011.

Froese, Rainer. "Pacific Spotted Scorpionfish." Ed. Arlene G. Sampang. Web. 26 May 2011. <>.

Gomes, H. L., T. N. Menezes, J. B. Carnielli, F. Andrich, K. S. Evangelista, C. Chavez-Olortequi, D. V. Vassallo, and S. G. Fiqueiredo. "Stonefish Antivenom Neutralises the Inflammatory and Cardiovascular Effects Induced by Scorpionfish Scorpaena Plumieri Venom." Toxicon (2011).

Haddadjr, V., I. Alvesmartins, and H. Minorumakyama. "Injuries Caused by Scorpionfishes (Scorpaena Plumieri Bloch, 1789 and Scorpaena Brasiliensis Cuvier, 1829) in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean (Brazilian Coast): Epidemiologic, Clinic and Therapeutic Aspects of 23 Stings in Humans." Toxicon 42.1 (2003): 79-83.

"Scorpaena Plumieri - Spotted Scorpionfish." Hunting and Fishing Outdoorsman's Website. Web. 27 May 2011. <>.

"Scorpionfish." Its Nature. Web. 27 May 2011.<>.

"SCORPIONFISH - Scorpaenidae Info." MY REEF GUIde. Web. 27 May 2011.<>.

"Scorpionfishes (Scorpaenidae) on the Shores of Singapore." Wildsingapore Homepage. Web. 27 May 2011.<>.

"SDNHM - Scorpaena Plumieri Mystes (Spotted Scorpionfish)." Ocean Oasis. Web. 27 May 2011. <>.

"Spotted Scorpionfishs, Scorpaena Plumieri at" - Marine Biology, Ocean Life Conservation, Sea Creatures, Biodiversity, Oceans Research... Web. 24 May 2011.<>.

Suzuki, S., N. Hino, and H. Sugi. "Intracellular Calcium Translocation during the Contraction-relaxation Cycle in Scorpionfish Swimbladder Muscle." Journal of Experimental Biology 207.7 (2004): 1093-099.

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