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  • Redescription of the Indo-Pacific Scorpionfish Scorpaenopsis fowleri and Reallocation to the Genus Sebastapistes
  • John E. Randall (bio) and Stuart G. Poss (bio)

The wide-ranging Indo-Pacific scorpionfish Scorpaenodes fowleri (Pietschmann), long placed in the genus Scorpaenopsis (largely because it lacks palatine teeth), is reclassified in the genus Sebastapistes. It is distinct from the species of Scorpaenopsis in several features: eye not extending above the dorsal profile of the head, large pores of the cephalic lateralis system, nasal pore above and adjacent to posterior nostril with a very small retrorse nasal spine (may be absent) on its upper edge, low ridgelike spines dorsally on the head, preocular spine usually embedded, sphenotic and postorbital spines absent or embedded; posterior lacrimal spine projecting slightly anteriorly, and a single spine posteriorly on the suborbital ridge with a pore-associated spine just below the ridge under the posterior third of the eye. Also significant is its very small size, the smallest of the Scorpaenidae (largest specimen, 37 mm SL; smallest mature female, 18 mm SL). The loss of palatine teeth appears to have occurred independently from the species of Scorpaenopsis. Sebastapistes fowleri is closest to S. strongia, the type species of the genus. In addition to having palatine teeth, S. strongia differs in the strongly retrorse posterior lacrimal spine and in having two spines on the suborbital ridge. The limits of Sebastapistes need reevaluation.

Pietschmann (1934:99) described a diminutive scorpionfish from O'ahu, Hawaiian Islands, as Scorpaena fowleri from three specimens that were deposited in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna as NMW 6341-6343. Pietschmann (1938:5, 30, pl. 9) changed the generic allocation to Scorpaenodes and provided a redescription and illustration of the species.

Herre (1935:409; 1936:262, fig. 12) created the first synonym of fowleri with the description of Sebastapistes badiorufus, based on a single 22-mm specimen from Takaroa, Tuamotu Archipelago.

Fowler (1949:107) retained fowleri in the genus Scorpaenodes. He provided a basis for its separation from Scorpaenodes kelloggi (Jenkins), but suggested a closer affiliation with Sebastapistes asperella (Bennett).

Gosline and Brock (1960:342) regarded Scorpaena fowleri as a synonym of Scorpaena ballieui Sauvage (now classified in Sebastapistes), but with a question mark.

Klausewitz (1970:73, fig. 1) described Sebastapistes hassi from one specimen, 23.4 mm SL, from 38 m off Addu Atoll, Maldive Islands, the second junior synonym of fowleri.

Randall (1973:185) included fowleri as a species of Scorpaenopsis in a checklist of fishes of the Society Islands.

Eschmeyer and Randall (1975:297, fig. 13) designated nmw 6341 as the lectotype of Scorpaena fowleri and also reclassified it in Scorpaenopsis. They added, "Most of the species usually referred to Scorpaenopsis seem more closely related to each other than to the species in various subgroups of Scorpaena, but there are a few species which stand apart. They are usually placed in Scorpaenopsis because they lack palatine teeth. Among these are S. fowleri. . . ."

Eschmeyer and Randall separated fowleri from other species of Scorpaenopsis by its possession of 16 pectoral rays instead of 17 or [End Page 57] more, and by the posterior lacrimal spine that angles anteriorly. They extended the range of the species to the Tuamotu Archipelago (then unaware of Sebastapistes badiorufus from the Tuamotus), American Samoa, and the Marshall Islands and illustrated a specimen from the Society Islands.

Myers (1988:137) listed Scorpaenopsis fowleri as a first record from Guam, Mariana Islands.

Winterbottom et al. (1989:21) reported the species from the Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean.

Kosaki et al. (1991:189, fig. 6) provided the record from Johnston Island. They wrote, "This small species is placed in Scorpaenopsis primarily on the lack of palatine teeth; further study may result in its placement in a new genus."

Randall and Anderson (1993:11) reported an additional specimen of Scorpaenopsis fowleri from the Maldive Islands and listed Sebastapistes hassi Klausewitz as a synonym. They also indicated that fowleri does not fit well in Scorpaenopsis.

Kulbicki et al. (1994:17) recorded Scorpaenopsis fowleri from the Chesterfield Islands, Coral Sea; they enclosed Scorpaenopsis in quotation marks.

Randall (1996:62) illustrated Scorpaenopsis fowleri in color and proposed the common name Dwarf Scorpionfish. He also indicated that a new genus...


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