Lionfish, Scorpionfish, & Stonefish

Lionfish, Scorpionfish, & Stonefish

Bony Fish


COMMON NAME: lionfish (turkeyfish, zebrafish), scorpionfish, & stonefish (rockfish)
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Osteichthyes
ORDER: Scorpaeniformes
FAMILY: Scorpaenidae


DESCRIPTION: A lionfish has a color pattern of contrasting reds and whites and possesses long feathery fins, which hide up to 18 dorsal spines.

Some scorpionfish are also brightly colored and many have venomous dorsal spines.

In contrast, the stonefish, while still possessing highly venomous spines, is named for its rough, rocklike appearance, which helps to camouflage the fish in its rocky habitat.
SIZE: No data
WEIGHT: No data
DIET: Small fishes
INCUBATION: Most oviparous (egg laying); some scorpionfish are viviparous (live birth)
LIFE SPAN: No data
RANGE: Found in all temperate and tropical seas. Most species found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
HABITAT: Found in fresh, brackish and marine waters, but rare in fresh water. Most species are bottom-dwelling and many inhabit shallow reef areas.
STATUS: IUCN 1 species listed as Critically Endangered,
2 species listed as Endangered, and
1 species as Vulnerable
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed


1. The huge fish order Scorpaeniformes contains some 20 families and more than 1,000 species. About 300 of these species make up the family Scorpaenidae, which includes scorpionfishes (Scorpaena spp.), stonefishes (Synanceja spp.), and lionfishes (Pterois spp.). All of these fishes have venom glands and spines.
2. The delicate-looking lionfish shows little fear of intruders, for its feathery dorsal fin is well armed. The vivid colors of a lionfish may act as a visual warning to potential enemies to stay away from its deadly spines. To capture prey, it maneuvers small fishes and crustaceans into confined spaces where it can swallow them more easily. When threatened, a lionfish turns its body sideways, delivering a painful jab from its needle-sharp spines. A lionfish can have as many as 18 dorsal spines, some of which can be as long as 36 cm (14 in.). Once injected, the venom causes intensely painful wounds that can lead to convulsions, paralysis, and possibly even death to humans. A lionfish is slow moving for the most part.
3. A stonefish inhabits shallow coral reef areas and the rocky temperate waters of the Indo-Pacific. The camouflage of the stonefish allows it to blend in with the bottom of a reef area, where it waits motionlessly for prey to pass by. It then lashes out with incredible speed, engulfing its prey in one swift motion.
4. Because a stonefish is so well camouflaged, humans may accidentally step on one while wading in shallow water. Stonefish are considered the deadliest fish in the world. There are several recorded human deaths due to stonefish stings.
5. For more information about bony fishes, explore the Bony Fishes InfoBook.


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Andrews, A., Parham, D. and W. Street. Bony Fishes. SeaWorld Education Department Publication. San Diego, SeaWorld, Inc. 1995.

Burgess, W. and H.R. Axelrod. Pacific Marine Fishes. Books 1,2, & 3. Neptune City, NJ. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Ltd. 1971, 1974.

Halstead, B. Dangerous Aquatic Animals of the World. San Diego, Palace Press. 1992.