Scorpaena plumieri is a sculpin belonging to the class Actinopteri, order Perciformes, family Scorpaenidae and genus Scorpaena that inhabits rocky bottoms down to depths of approximately 55 meters. This species is found mainly in the western Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern coasts of the United States to Brazil, including the entire Caribbean Sea in between. In the eastern Atlantic, it has been described from the islands of St. Helena and Ascension.
The head of Scorpaena plumieri is spiny and very robust. The eyes protrude slightly from the head, forming a visible occipital fossette that runs from in front of the eyes to behind them. The dorsal fin is unique, and is formed by a region of 12 spines followed by a second, slightly higher region of 9-10 soft rays. The pectoral fins are broad and have between 18 and 21 rays, some of which are branched towards the distal end. The anal fin has 3 spines and 5-6 soft rays. Both the preoperculum and operculum are endowed with numerous spines, which together with those of the dorsal fin are all connected to stinging glands. In total, the body of Scorpaena plumieri can reach a maximum total length of 30-40 cm, and has numerous flaps of skin all over its body that give it, together with its color, an amazing ability to mimic the environment.
The body color of Scorpaena plumieri is variable, with brown, blackish and reddish tones dominating the chromatic palette. Of note is the caudal peduncle area which is considerably paler in color than the rest of the body, as well as the pectoral fin axils which are distinctly very dark, almost black with numerous white spots. The head has numerous irregular spots with dark margins, while the ventral part of the body is usually orange or reddish in color.
A common behavior in the species of this genus, is that they usually remain motionless on the rocky bottom, and as we approach them and notice our presence, we can see how they are bristling the spines of the dorsal fin, and deploying the operculum as a deterrent.
Like most scorpionfishes, Scorpaena plumieri feeds by ambushing its prey, remaining completely motionless until the prey gets close enough to suck the fish and crustaceans it feeds on with a very fast movement of its jaws.Photos: