Order

CHAPTER

GURNARDS, FLATHEADS, SCORPIONFISHES, AND RELATIVES

Scorpaeniformes

Class: Actinopterygii Order: Scorpaeniformes Number of families: 33 families

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The characteristic that gurnards, flatheads, scorpionfishes, greenlings, and sculpins have in common is a bone that connects the bones under the eye with the front of the gill cover. In all but one species, a bony ridge below the eyes makes the head look armored. Flatheads and flying gurnards have large pectoral (PECK-ter-uhl) fins, the pair that corresponds to the front legs of four-footed animals. These fishes use the rays, or supporting rods, of these fins to "walk" on the sea floor. All scorpionfishes have sharp spines on their bodies. Some of these fishes display bright warning colors and are highly venomous, venom being poison made by the animals. Greenlings and sculpins have a flat head and large pectoral fins. They have no swim bladder, an internal sac that fishes use to control their position in the water.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Gurnards, flatheads, scorpionfishes, greenlings, and sculpins live in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans.

HABITAT

Most gurnards, flatheads, scorpionfishes, greenlings, and sculpins live near the shore, but some live in deep water. Some of these fishes live in mud or sandy bottoms. Others live in rocky habitats and coral reefs.

DIET

Gurnards, flatheads, scorpionfishes, greenlings, and sculpins eat crustaceans, such as crabs and shrimp, and smaller fishes.

phylum class subclass • order monotypic order suborder family

FIRST AID

Scorpionfish venom affects both the nervous system and the blood vessels and has caused many human deaths. The effects of the venom are lessened if the wounded area is soaked in very hot, but not boiling, water.

HOW DID THEY GET THERE?

The first red lionfish to live in the Atlantic Ocean were swept there when a home aquarium in Florida was shattered by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Crustaceans (krus-TAY-shuns) are water-dwelling animals that have jointed legs and a hard shell but no backbone. Some sculpins eat seaweed.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Gurnards and flatheads lie and wait to ambush their prey, or animals hunted and killed for food. Little is known about the reproduction of flatheads and gurnards. They produce freefloating eggs. Some flatheads begin life as males and become females as they grow older.

Scorpionfishes can disguise themselves as leaves or rocks. Some scorpionfishes bury themselves in the sand. Most scorpionfishes live alone except to form mating groups. In many species the male places sperm in the female, and then the female squeezes out the eggs in a jellylike mass that floats at the surface. Other scorpionfishes scatter their eggs, which hatch into free-floating larvae. Larvae (LAR-vee) are animals in an early stage and must change form before becoming adults.

Sculpins and greenlings feed by pouncing on and swallowing their prey whole or by sucking in the prey with a stream of water. Most greenlings and sculpins lay masses of eggs that always stick to each other but not always to the surface on which they land. Male sculpins and greenlings guard their egg masses.

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