top of page

100. Yawning Lionfish (Pterois muricata)


An Indian Lionfish (Pterois muricata) yawns while resting underneath the stern of the Tug II wreck, which is submerged somewhere along Mauritius' western coast.

The Lionfish is a common name for four of the five genera of fish belonging to the Pteroini tribe. These genera are Dendrochirus, Ebosia, Parapterois, and Pterois. Although all 26 different Lionfish species from these four genera look very similar at first glance, they differ anatomically in the number of fin rays they possess, their size and colour and their habitat and geographical range. The untrained eye will not remark these sometimes subtle anatomical differences, and no scuba diver will start counting fin rays underwater. There are, however, a number of things to look for in order to make the identification easier.

First, there is the possibility to narrow down the identification of a species according to their geographical range. This method will not pinpoint the exact species, but it will exclude certain species and narrow the search. All Lionfish species are native to the Indian Ocean and the western part of the Pacific Ocean. Within this large area, certain species occur only in specific sectors. This way of identification is thus only possible within the Lionfish's native area. For the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, this identification method is not possible due to the fact that different species were introduced into these waters due to human negligence. However, more than 90% of all Lionfish that have established themselves in this geographical area belong to a single species: the Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans). This invasion probably started in the early 1990s when aquarium enthusiasts released their captive fish into these Central American waters for various reasons. By 2014, Lionfish could be found as far south as Brazil and as far north as the American state of Delaware. The Mediterranean Sea also has some Lionfish sightings, although these are probably due to seepage through the Suez Canal.

Size, colour, appendages, and habitat can also be used to identify the right species of Lionfish. Lionfish belonging to the genus Parapterois, sometimes called Firefishes, are small and are red and white coloured, measuring maximum 11 cm (4 inches) in length. Lionfish of the Dendrochirus genus, commonly known as Turkey Fishes or Pygmy Lion Fishes, lack ridges, spines, or scales on their lower jaw and prefer a rubbly bottom composition. Sandy and muddy substrates are preferred by the members of the Ebosia genus, also known as Falcate Lionfishes. Finally, all members of the Pterois genus are recognised by a tentacle located above their eye sockets. These tentacles are always present when these Lionfish are still in their juvenile life stage.


Due to the number of suspended particles, probably stirred-up sand and silt, in the background, the image quality of this shot was so poor that I almost deleted it. Noise reduction software proved to be a game changer even here. Once applied (with some fine-tuning), it got rid of 95% of all the suspended particles! In combination with a vignette mask, it breathed new life into an almost deleted shot.

Filming location:

This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺

More on this topic:

For other "yawning fish" insights please go to these vlog posts:

Join us on a journey of discovery and entertainment as we explore fascinating marine wildlife topics and explore the many exciting underwater adventures on our YouTube channel and our Facebook page!

Discover the beauty beneath the surface with our online Marine Wildlife Videography course!


bottom of page