The leaf scorpion fish (Taenianotus triacanthus) is a species of marine fish and the only member of its genus. Heavily camouflaged, these fish are patiently waiting to devour passing crustaceans or tiny fish.
The leaf scorpion fish is about 10 cm long and fully grown and is found in coral branches, on sponges, hidden in cracks or leaning on the sand against a rock. When the stream of water flows over their high dorsal fin, the fish sways back and forth like a dead vacation.
Interestingly, this fish melts its skin every 10-14 days and can change color after molting. Their color varies from pink or purple, brown and creamy yellow. They often have a mottled, spotty, cryptic coloring that allows them to blend in seamlessly with the substrate and surrounding coral reef.
Around their mouths are often small limbs with algae and hydroid that grow on the skin and further increase coral reef camouflage. One of the distinctive 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 distributed from the 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 is found on coral reefs in tropical waters, from shallow water to a depth of 130 m.
Photo credit: Marcelo Johan Ogata