The scorpionfish is one of the most grotesque, yet most beautiful fishes of the coral reef environment. It is so ugly it is absolutely fascinating to observe at close range.

Perched on a coral outcropping, this beast sits as still and as alert as a frog on a lily pad. It is content um-like mouth. Should an unsuspecting victim come within lethal range, the scorpionfish inhales it.

Dragon of the deep1

Upon close observation, one is always amazed by the medieval, almost gargoyle appearance of this creature. Its outer skin and bone structure are covered with horny, spiky, scaly appendages which are reminiscent of those legendary dragons. This prehistoric beast in miniature has the uncanny ability to blend in with the rubble and algae covered coral that litter the reef floor. It can change its color to match its background and thus become virtually invisible on the reef.

Fortunately for divers, this undersea dragon only grows to a length of 12 to 18 inches. It was named after the scorpion because of the painful sting which can be inflicted by its poisonous dorsal fins. It will erect these spines when excited, annoyed or harassed. The sting is painful but not fatal.

Scorpionfish are a popular attraction on most coral reefs as they make convenient subjects for close-up photography. Let the local divemaster handle this creature if you are unfamiliar with its behavior. Look, but don’t touch!

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