Superior Fish Highlight: Leaf Scorpionfish

The leaf scorpionfish (Taenianotus triacanthus) is a species of marine fish and the only member of its genus. These fish are highly camouflaged and sit patiently waiting to gobble up any passing crustaceans or tiny fish.

The leaf scorpionfish is about 10 cm (4 in) long fully grown and can be found perched inside coral branches, onto of sponges, tucked inside cracks, or sitting on the sand leaning against a rock. As the water current passes over their high dorsal fin it causes the fish to sway back and forth like a dead leave.

Interestingly this fish molts its skin every 10-14 days and can change colors after it molts. Their color varies from pink or purple, brown, and creamy yellow. They often have a blotchy spotty cryptic coloration which allows them to blend in seamlessly with the substrate and surrounding coral reef.

Around their mouth, you can often find small appendages with algae and hydroid growing on the skin with further adds to their coral reef camouflage. One of the distinguishing features of this fish is the large leaf like dorsal fin that starts just behind the eyes and has 12 spines and eight to 11 soft rays.

Taenianotus triacanthus is widespread from east African coast and the Red Sea to the tropical Indo-Pacific, north to the Galapagos Islands, the Ryukyu Islands, Hawaii, and the coast of New South Wales. This species can be found in tropical waters on coral reefs, from shallow water to a depth of 130 m.

Photo Credit: Marcelo Johan Ogata

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