The Red Firefish (Pterois volitans), order
Perciformes, family Scorpaenidae, is one of the most spectacular
of all Queensland fish. It is found on the cays of the Great Barrier
Reef, Australia. This fish is a dazzling exhibition of feathery
fins and stripes of cream, yellow, pink, scarlet or warm-brown.
The spines and rays of the dorsal and pectoral fins are extended
fantastically beyond the general levels of the fin membrane with
the coloured bars and stripes providing effective camouflage as
disruptive colouration. The head resembles a grotesque mask in
that it bears a series of red tassel-like appendages, often extending
above the eyes.
A slowly-swimming Firefish, with fins extended
and waving gently, has been described as one of the most gorgeous
sights in nature; however, it looks more like a water-borne bundle
of weeds than the remarkably voracious predator that it is. The
Firefish will rest motionless on the ocean floor until a small
fish approachs; the fins are then moved deliberately in a slow
undulation as the Firefish gains on its prey, spreading first
one pectoral then the other, net-fashion, to drive the prey into
a suitable postion for attack. The act of feeding is incredibly
rapid: as the jaws open, the gill-covers are flung wide and the
floor of the mouth drops, causing a powerful water-jet which sweeps
the prey into the mouth.
The Firefish is a member of the family of Scorpion-fishes.
The dorsal spines are venomous and can cause severe pain; however,
it is not as dangerous as the related Stonefish. The Firefish,
also known as the Butterfly-Cod, Lionfish, Featherfins and Zebrafish,
can reach 40 cm in length.
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