Lizard fish, Philippines. Photo by Stephane Rochon.

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Scorpionfishes including Rhinopias and Lionfishes. Part 14 of my documentary, "Mucky Secrets", about the fascinating marine creatures of the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia. Watch the full 90-minute documentary at

There are many species of scorpionfish in the Lembeh Strait, and it is often impossible to accurately identify them from pictures alone due to the minor differences in their anatomy and the highly variable nature of their camouflage. All scorpionfishes possess venomous spines on the dorsal and anal fins for self-defence, and for stunning their prey. They can also deliver a painful, sometimes even deadly sting to humans. The sting can be deactivated and the pain alleviated with prolonged immersion in hot water.

We first meet a flasher scorpionfish, Scorpaenopsis macrochir, at Aer Perang. Like so many cryptic Lembeh creatures, scorpionfishes are ambush predators, using camouflage to remain hidden, then pouncing on unsuspecting prey when it passes.

One of the best camouflaged is the Ambon scorpionfish, Pteroidichthys amboinensis, named after the island to the south east in the Maluku islands. It has very long protrusions, particularly above its eyes. Due to its sedentary lifestyle, the Ambon scorpionfish gathers a lot of algae on its body which helps it disappear into the surrounding territory. Like many scorpionfishes it cleans itself by occasionally shedding the outer layer of its skin, known as the cuticle.

The scorpionfish of the Rhinopias genus are fantastic and rare creatures, and considered by many to be the holy grail of muck diving finds. The Eschmeyer's scorpionfish, Rhinopias eschmeyeri, sometimes known as a "paddle flap scorpionfish", is occasionally found. We encounter a pink specimen at Aer Perang. 

The weedy scorpionfish, Rhinopias frondosa, typically bears a spotted coloration and more skin filaments than the Eschmeyer's scorpionfish. We meet one also at Aer Perang.

Lionfishes are close relatives of scorpionfishes. Rather than camouflage, they bear a bold warning pattern to advertise their toxicity and confuse predators. Like scorpionfishes, they have venomous spines along their dorsal fin, but the venom glands are smaller, so their sting is generally less potent. Human fatalities are very rare.

The dwarf lionfish, Dendrochirus brachypterus, also known as a "shortfin turkeyfish", splays its dorsal rays to maximise its defences. It feeds mainly on crabs at night. The male can be identified by its larger head and longer pectoral fins with more bands than those of its female partner.

Red lionfish, Pterois volitans, are sometimes seen too. We encounter is a young red lionfish at Aer Perang, and a mature adult at Jahir. They have tentacles above the eyes, and some exhibit globular fleshy growths beneath these tentacles.

Although indigenous only to the Indo-Pacific, red lionfish have been introduced to the east coast of the United States and spread all the way from North Carolina down to the Caribbean. With few natural predators and a voracious appetite for smaller reef fishes, the population has expanded exponentially, wiping out many native species and greatly upsetting the balance of reef ecosystems. Scientists are trying to understand why the native indo-pacific population is not out of control, in an effort to find solutions to the west-Atlantic invasion.

There are English captions showing either the full narration or the common and scientific names of the marine life, along with the dive site names.

Thanks to Kevin MacLeod of for the music track, "Lightless Dawn" and to Chris Zabriskie of for the track "Divider". These tracks are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Thanks to the staff and keen-eyed divemasters of Two Fish Divers (, for accommodation, diving services and critter-spotting.

I have more scuba diving videos and underwater footage on my website at:

I post updates about my videos here:

Full list of marine life and dive sites featured in this video:

00:04 Flasher Scorpionfish (tentative), Scorpaenopsis macrochir, Hairball
00:20 Undetermined Scorpionfish, Aer Perang
00:33 Flasher Scorpionfish (tentative), Scorpaenopsis macrochir, Aer Perang
00:43 Undetermined Scorpionfish, Retak Larry
00:50 Undetermined Scorpionfish, Jahir
00:55 Ambon Scorpionfish, Pteroidichthys amboinensis, Hairball
01:32 Eschmeyer's Scorpionfish, Rhinopias eschmeyeri, Aer Perang
02:35 Weedy Scorpionfish, Rhinopias frondosa, Aer Perang
03:18 Zebra Lionfish, Dendrochirus zebra, Two Fish Divers house reef
03:45 Dwarf Lionfish, Dendrochirus brachypterus, Makawide
04:31 Red Lionfish, Pterois volitans, Aer Perang
04:53 Red Lionfish, Pterois volitans, Jahir 06:30

Air Prang


United States of America


Cala Morlanda

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