Red Scorpionfish ( Scorpaena scrofa )


Scorpaena scrofa is a large headed fish of approximately 30cm length (1) (2). The scales are ctenoid, in 45 vertical rows; the pectoral fin base and chest are naked, the head is mostly naked or embedded with cycloid scales (2).

A pre-orbital bone (front of the eye) with 3-4 spines can be found over the maxilla; the sub-orbital ridge (below the eye) has 2-4 spinous points. The upper post-temporal spine is present; the other spines are found as for the genus (2).

The dorsal fin has 12 spines and 9 soft rays; the pectoral fin has 18-20 rays, not reaching the first anal spine (2). The anterolateral glandular groove contains a venom gland, although this poisonous venom is used in protection and for use against prey (3).

The body has a brick-red to light pink colouration with dark blotches; the fins are mottled brown (2). A dark spot is frequently found on the dorsal fin between the 6th and 11th spines.

There are approximately 206 species in the Genus Scorpaena; Scorpaena loppei, Scorpaena porcus, Scorpaena maderensis, Scorpaena notata are also found in the Mediterranean.


S. scrofa is a solitary species that is found inactive in shallow waters amongst rocks during the day (4).


The Red scorpionfish is a benthic littoral species found mainly on rocky substratum, but can also be found on muddy, or sandy bottoms and in seagrass beds (1) (2) (4). They are found in depths 20 to 200 m (2).

Life Cycle

The eggs and larvae of S. scrofa are planktonic; the spawning season is in the summer (1).


The Red scorpionfish is found in the Eastern Atlantic; from the British Isles to Senegal, including, Madeira, the Canary islands, Cape Verde and the Mediterranean Sea, although, not in the Black Sea (1) (2) (4).


S. scrofa is a non-migratory species (4).


S. scrofa feeds mainly on fish, crustaceans and molluscs (1) (4). It catches prey by using a ‘sit and wait’ tactic (1).

Conservation Status

Not evaluated under the IUCN Redlist (5).


Description written by Ben Harvey (2009)

(1) Golani, D., Özturk, B. and Başusta, N. 2006. Fishes of the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish Marine Research Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey. 259pp.

(2) Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae, ed. X, vol. 1, 824 pp. Nantes & Pisces: pp. 230-338. (Reprint, 1956, London.)

(3) Smith, W.L. and W.C. Wheeler. 2006. Venom evolution widespread in fishes: a phylogenetic rode map for the bioprospecting of piscine venoms. J. Hered. 97(3):206-217.

(4) Hureau, J.-C. and N.I. Litvinenko 1986 Scorpaenidae. p. 1211-1229. In P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. UNESCO, Paris. Vol 3.

(5) IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. <>. Downloaded on 27 July 2009.

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