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Decoy Scorpionfish Iracundus signifer (Jordan & Evermann, 1903)
The scorpionfishes are named for the venomous fin spines of many of the species. The most dangerous is the Stonefish (Synancea verrucosa) which has caused fatalities from wounds with its spines. Fortunately it does not occur in Hawaii (although some people mistakenly call the larger Hawaiian species stonefishes).
In Tahiti the stonefish is known as nohu. Not finding the stonefish in Hawaii, early Tahitian immigrants applied the name to the larger Hawaiian scorpionfishes such as Scorpaenopsis cacopsis. Next in virulence of the spine venom are the turkeyfishes (Pterois spp.) and lionfishes (Dendrochirus spp.) of which there is one representative of each of these genera in Hawaiian waters.
If stuck by a venomous scorpionfish spine, place the wounded member in water as hot as can be tolerated; this will lessen the pain. Scorpionfishes have a reinforcing bony plate across the cheek below the eye, apparent as a ridge bearing small retrorse spines; there are other ridges and short spines on the head, including 3-5 spines on the preopercle and usually 2 on the opercle.
Fishes of this family are well known for their camouflage; not only do they have mottled color patterns that match their surroundings, but many have fleshyflaps and small tentacles on the head and body. Most of these fishes are lie-and-wait predators that ambush small fishes and crustaceans that venture near.
Many feed mainly at dusk or during the night. We are also fortunate in Hawaii in not having any scorpionfishes of the Indo-Pacific subfamilies Choridactylinae (stingfishes) and Tetraroginae (waspfishes) which have virulently venomous spines.
Dendrochirus barberi (Steindachner, 1900)
Greenish to orangish brown with dark bars; eyes red; fins with rows of spots; tips of pectoral rays not free of membrane except lower rays; dorsal spines 13, soft rays 8-10, the spinous membranes incised nearly to back. Largest specimen, 6.5 inches (16.5 cm).
Hawaiian Islands; usually beneath ledges or in recesses in reef; may occur as shallow as 3 feet (1 m) in calm areas. Wounds from spines extremely painful.
Iracundus signifer (Jordan & Evermann, 1903)
Mottled red, usually with a small black spot between second and third dorsal spines; base of spinous portion of dorsal fin largely clear;fourth dorsal spine of adults notably longest;dorsal spines 12, rays 9. Largest specimen, 5.1 inches (13 cm). Indo-Pacific.
When undulated, the spinous dorsal fin resembles a small fish, the gap between the first and second spines seems like the mouth, the black spot the eye.
All information and pictures in this section are from John E. Randall's Shore Fishes of Hawai'i by permission of the author.
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