[Ocean Oasis Field Guide] Satellite image of the Baja California peninsula and Gulf of California See Spanish version

Scorpaena plumieri mystes
Spotted scorpionfish, Lapon, Peces escorpión

Family: SCORPAENIDAE (Scorpionfishes)

Scorpion fish from Ocean Oasis, © 2000 CinemaCorp of the Californias

Divers, unaware of their presence, often mistake a scorpionfish for part of the reef. Sometimes they may brush against them, or even rest their hand on what seems to appear as a rock, and receive a puncture wound, which quickly becomes painful, and can become infected. Immersion of the injured limb in a very hot water helps alleviate the pain.


The head and body of the scorpionfish is as deep as broad and is covered with numerous skin flaps or large (cirri). Its color is highly variable, but is commonly a drab mottled mixture of gray, brown, red, and black

Size: Length to 0.5 m (1.5 feet)

Range and Habitat

Range: Baja California to Ecuador, including the Galapagos and other offshore islands.

Habitat: Scorpionfishes are bottom-living predators, lying on rocky and sandy bottoms. They occur at a variety of depths from shallow tidepools to the oceanic abyss.

Natural History

Scorpionfishes are named for their venomous dorsal, anal, and pelvic spines, which contain a toxic protein. They remain mostly stationary during daylight, but are active at night. Their food consists mostly of crustaceans and small fishes.

The color patterns of the body blend well with the surroundings, providing camouflage that enables them to remain undetected by their prey.

Text by Patricia Beller
Photograph from Ocean Oasis © 2000 CinemaCorp of the Californias

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