Thanksgiving Turkeyfish

December 19, 2011

…or the Hawaiian Lionfish


This is a seasonal Thanksgiving message so “Turkeyfish” seemed an appropriate subject. Okay, the truth is the featured fish are actually referred to as “Lionfish” although common names used throughout the world allow my discretion. They don’t really resemble a large cat anyway.

Interestingly the two lionfish are also both endemic to Hawaii which means they are only found in Hawaiian waters. Lionfish are reclusive during daylight so it is very special when a diver finds one during a daytime dive.

So what do the two fish have in common? Lionfish are part of a larger family of scorpion fish. The main common trait is that both fish have venomous spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins. They are also nocturnal predators so they are more likely to be seen in the open during night dives.

Hawaiian Lionfish

The Hawaiian Lionfish resembles other small lionfish species found throughout the South Pacific. Its’ distinctive bright red and white markings and exotic flowering fins make this fish one of the more popular fish we hear requested when we ask divers “what would you like to see?”

Habitat of this rare (at least around Maui) fish is lava and coral caves and overhangs where it can hide during the day.

Green Lionfish

Another endemic scorpionfish is the “Green Lionfish.” The green designation comes from the green body tinge that is common among this species. Another unique physical trait is the wild psychedelic light patterns within the fish’s eye. One of our divemasters describes the pattern as “lightning bolts” which is a pretty good definition. This fish is also rarely seen, although there is one dive site we frequent (Three Anchors) where there are usually several dozen of these lionfish hiding among the arms of one large antler coral head.


Written by: Ed Robinson

Posted in Natural History


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