Scorpaena scrofa

The red scorpionfish or Scorpaena scrofa is a common fish of predominantly rocky bottoms, although it is possible to spot it sometimes in sandy areas as well. It is distributed along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, where it is very common in waters less than 150 meters deep, and along the coasts of the eastern Atlantic.

Source: FAO

Scorpaena scrofa is characterized by large and prominent eyes, which are located in an upper lateral position. Its body is strong and laterally compressed, with a very large and broad head. Their coloration is predominantly reddish, with a light and dark marbling that allows them to blend in perfectly with rocky bottoms. Scorpaena scrofa has spines connected to poison glands, which it uses as a passive defense mechanism. These are located on the first rays of the dorsal and ventral fins and on the operculum.

The dorsal fin of Scorpaena scrofa is composed of 12 spines, behind which there are 9 to 10 soft rays. In general, the individual usually has the dorsal fin rays in a horizontal position. However, when it notices the presence of the diver, and as we approach the specimen, the dorsal fin rays and the two spines of the operculum will be raised, thus adopting a defensive attitude. The pectoral fin is formed by less than 20 rays, some of them branched in the upper half of its length and has a slight wedge shape, in which the longest rays are located in or near the middle part of the fin.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Scorpaena scrofa from other species of the same genus is the presence of cutaneous appendages or flaps under the lower jaw, as well as the presence of an occipital pit located midway between the eyes and the first radius of the dorsal fin. Another distinctive feature, although difficult to observe, is the presence of two moderately separated pores, located in the ventral region of the lower jaw and centered with the longitudinal axis of the body.

They prefer to inhabit rocky bottoms at depths of around 20-30 meters, where they usually settle on the rocks and remain motionless because their coloration makes them go unnoticed. At greater depths, Scorpaena scrofa usually settles on sandy bottoms. It feeds very voraciously on crustaceans, mollusks and small fish during dusk, ambushing its prey.

Scorpaena scrofa is often confused with other species of the same genus. The characteristic features that will allow us to differentiate between these species are...

  • Scorpaena maderensis. Presence of cutaneous ramifications under the lower jaw. Without occipital pit and with the upper pectoral fin rays branched and the others unbranched.
  • Scorpaena notata. No cutaneous ramifications under the lower jaw. Absence of branches on the upper part of the eye, or if present, it is very short.
  • Scorpaena porcus. No cutaneous ramifications under the lower jaw. Large ramifications on the upper part of the eye, which are equal in length to the diameter of the eye.
  • Scorpaena scrofa. Presence of cutaneous ramifications under the lower jaw. Occipital pit present and pectoral fin rays unbranched.