A small fish with a stout
body (flattened out wide about the same as it is high) with a head as large
as the rest of its tapering body. Large cottid, or sculpin. This family
of fish are usually regarded as ugly in appearance with a drab colour and
this species has four short spines (two on each side, on the gill cover)
that stick out when the fish is removed from the water. Usually in various
shades of brown with large cream blotches. The pectoral fins are huge relative
to the small squat body.
Similar species: Taurulus
bubalis is very similar in appearance. However, the two species
can be readily distinguished because only T. bubalis has two white
lappets on the corner of its wide mouth.
seen by Jane Lilley in 1998 had a very bold near black body with
two narrow beige bands across the body and the same narrow bands forming
a triangle on the head.
of a Short-spined Bullhead
by Glenn Smart washed up on
a Northumberland beach in February 2007.
by Penny Martin
study above shows the typical appearance of the Short-spined
Bullhead and if you look carefully you can
note the shorter pre-opercula spine that gives the fish the first component
of its book name.
fish can be confused with the Long-spined
bubalis, illustrated below. The latter
fish has a longer pre-opercula spine, but in the field this difference
can be tricky to distinguish.
species of fish show a great range in colour which should be ignored for
identification purposes. The Long-spined Bullhead
is much more prevalent in the shallow seas all around the British Isles.
is an inhabitant of deeper water in the English Channel, but is frequently
discovered in much shallower seas around Orkney.
must easily discernible identification feature are the quite lappets at
the corner of the large expansive mouth of Taurulus
bubalis only. Both species of fish have
huge mouths for swallowing their prey. The presence of the lappets always
indicate the smaller species the Long-spined,
but they can be hidden in photographs and the absence at first glance should
not be used as definitive for the Short-spined,
scorpius, just a guide to look further. The spines
have to be looked at very carefully to distinguish the species. They are
not venomous, but stinging spines do occur in the true Scorpion
scrofa. Colloquial names are extremely
varied for both species. Bullhead
is the most commonly used in Britain but there are so many regional variations
that each port seems to have a different name.
new and recommended fish identification
guide book goes into great detail to identify the identification characteristics
of each fish, especially as seen by anglers and fishermen. An example of
the pages is shown above.
Egg masses laid in shallow
water attached to rocks from December to March. On the west coast of Scotland
usually February & March.
by Avril Keith
study of the larger of the two usual cottids
found in shallow seas around the British Isles.
Shallow rocky areas, rarely
A large expandable mouth
will swallow fish as big as itself. Flattened crushing teeth so it cannot
eat anything it cannot swallow whole.
Shallower seas around the
British Isles, commoner in the north.
English Channel, North Sea,
book name of Sea Scorpion may be used by divers.
names Short-spined Sea Scorpion, Father-lasher are book names. The first
one may be used by divers, but I have never been able to trace the colloquial
use of the second name. It used in Yarrell
as one of many common names.
Shorthorn Sculpin is the American name as this fish is found on both sides
of the North Atlantic.
Information wanted: Please
send any records of this fish, with location, date, who discovered it,
how it was identified, prevalence, common name and any other details to
All messages will receive
specimen in the photograph was caught in deep water off Shoreham,
March 1999: Robert Morris caught a specimen
nearly 30 cm in length and weighing an estimated 800 grams off Deal Pier.
It was a sort of sandy olive base colour with brown stripes along the body
British angling weight is at about 1210 grams from Whitley Bay, from the
shore in 1982.