Just like Elvis, only with “hair” towards both sides of the head. That’s one of the pictures that comes to my mind looking at an ambon scorpionfish (Pteroidichthys amboinensi). Unlike on Elvis, the information that can be found online on this beautiful species is rather slim though.
Shaggy style to blend in
This guy camouflages in style. Shaggy and changeable in colour to match the habitat, mostly 50 shades of brown, but also yellow, red or pink are possible. The hairlike appendages above the eyes are called cirri. But their body is overgrown by skin flaps which is most prominent in males. If there is no algae in their habitat, they do look smooth, but still have their wild hairstyle and the wide pectoral fins (see picture below).
In biology, a cirrus, plural cirri, (from the Latin cirrus meaning a curl-like tuft or fringe) is a long, thin structure in an animal similar to a tentacle but generally lacking the tentacle’s strength, flexibility, thickness, and sensitivity.Wikipedia: Cirrus (biology)
Sitting, waiting, wishing
Ambon scorpionfish is an ambush predator (meet more Ambush predators: They got the look). Patiently they lie and wait for prey to come close enough to strike. In fact, they don’t show off their hair but rather use it to blend in and to hide the outline of their rather wide head and big mouth. As soon as the unsuspecting victim is close enough, the ambon opens the mouth quickly very wide. This creates a strong sucking motion and the prey gets swallowed in one piece.
They have poisonous spines on their back that they can raise when threatened. As usual with venomous sea creatures, they only use their venom in defense and only when they are cornered, left with no other way out.
Ambon scorpionfish: Elusive Elvis
Ambon scorpionfish stay small (up to 12cm) and are only found on sandy and muddy substrates, often in areas with a lot of algal growth, down to 40 metres and in many regions of the Indo-Pacific. iNaturalist has put together a interesting map, sightings are linked into geographical areas and put into a seasonal graph as well and registers sightings. Other sources, like Research Gate, report sightings from Israel as well as India – few and far between. Pteroidichthys amboinensi has been spotted, here and there, on rare occasion – just like Elvis.
Taxonomy: Scientific classification
Species: P. amboinensi