Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The scorpionfish or rockfish are a family (Scorpaenidae) of mostly marine fish that includes many of the world's most venomous species. The family is a large one, with hundreds of members. They are widespread in tropical and temperate seas, but mostly found in the Indo-Pacific area.
General characteristics of family members include a compressed body, ridges and/or spines on the head, one or two spines on the opercle , and three to five spines on the preopercle . The dorsal fin will have 11-17 spines, often long and separated from each other, and the pectoral fins will be well-developed, with 11-25 rays. The spines of the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins all have venom glands at their bases.
Most species are bottom-dwellers that feed on crustaceans and smaller fish, in some cases using the spines to paralyze their victims before gulping them. Others, such as the stonefish, wait in disguise for prey to pass them by before swallowing.
Scorpaenid systematics are complicated and unsettled. Fishes of the World recognizes ten subfamilies with a total of 388 species, while (as of 2003) FishBase follows Eschmeyer and has three subfamilies and less than 200 species, some of the species being removed to family Sebastidae which other authorities do not follow.
In addition to the two basic names above, common names for family members also include "firefish", "turkeyfish", "barbfish", and "stingfish", usually with adjectives added.
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