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LEAFFISH and WASPFISH

Underwater photography: images of leaf and waspfish taken while scuba diving
Leaffish | Leaf scorpionfish | Spiny waspfish | Cockatoo waspfish

Unlike other members of the extended scorpionfish family, leaffish are a solitary species. However, they do look remarkably similar to certain members of the waspfish family. Like all scorpionfish, both leaffish and waspfish have prominent spines along a single dorsal fin, which contain a toxic venom. Both have a highly flattened body and by flexing their pectoral fins they can wave from side to side, looking for all the world like a leaf blowing in the wind.

Leaffish can be brightly coloured but tend to sit on the reef amongst similar coloured corals so they blend into the background. This allows them to be sneaky predators. Divers often say you can sniff out a member of the scorpionfish family whenever you spot a cave or crevice full of glassy sweepers. As those little fish are a favoured delicacy you're nearly always bound to find one in the vicinity. A leaffish or two will settle right in the middle of a cloud of them, swaying gently from side to side, until one moves close enough to be nabbed.

Waspfishes may look remarkably similar but they are mostly bottom dwellers and are seen sitting in rubble patches or amongst blades os seagrass. Their behaviour patterns are similar to leaffish, which is why they are often mistaken for them.

Class:
Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes

Leaffish:
Family:
Scorpaenidae Subfamily: Scorpaeninae Genus: Taenianotus
Species:
T. Triacanthus

Waspfish
Family: Tetrarogidae
Family: Tetrarogidae
Genera:
17 known

Leaffish
image gallery

click any image to enlarge
Int. = intermediate stage
Juv.= juvenile
Leaffish or waspfish?
Left:
Cockatoo waspfish
Species: Tetrarogidae Ablabys
Dive:
Laha 1, Ambon
Right:
Leaffish
Species: Taenianotus Triacanthus
Dive:
Blue Lagoon Bali

No one could be blamed for thinking these two critters were one and the same. The protruding cocks-comb shaped dorsal fin is almost the same on both animals.

Both also raise and lower them as a warning, both waver in the water like a leaf, but the waspfish tends to be a bottom dweller with colours matching the seabed while the leaffish is found amongst corals.

SPECIES NAMES | Many fish can be hard to identify as they are so similar. Common names vary and even scientists disagree on what is what. If you can name anything we can't, please get in touch.

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