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Luring Behavior in the Scorpionfish, Iracundus Signifer

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In October, 1970, laboratory observations were conducted on fishes collected from the hull of a 12 meter boat which had remained on the ocean bottom in 70 meters of water for over five months. Included in the collection were three live specimens of the scorpionfish, Iracundus signifer Jordan and Evermann. These specimens displayed a type of luring behavior unlike any pattern described previously. Prior to feeding, the camouflaged scorpionfish raised its spinous dorsal fin and began snapping it from side to side in a characteristic fashion. Colors on the fin intensified during the display. The image of a small fish, complete with eye, mouth and dorsal fin, became visible on the fin. Prey fish, attracted within range, or at least distracted by the luring, were attacked by the scorpionfish and rapidly swallowed. The most comparative patterns in vertebrates are seen in the highly diversified angler-fishes, although members of the fresh water mussel family, Lampsilidae, display a similar lure in the attraction of host fishes for their larvae. The behavioral and morphological components of luring in I. signifer are seen individually among other members of the family Scorpaenidae, although none appear to have evolved a coordinated luring pattern closely similar to I. signifer. Experimental and observational data indicate that erection and movement of the lure may elicit a simple behavioral response, not directly related to the fishlike qualities of the lure. The evolution of this pattern is considered.

Affiliations: 1: (Oceanic Institute, Waimanalo, Oahu, Hawaii, U.S.A.

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