Cook's Scorpionfish, Scorpaena cardinalis Solander & Richardson 1842

Other Names: Cardinal Scorpionfish, Cook's Rockcod, Kermadec Scorpionfish, Northern Scorpionfish, Red Scorpion Fish, Red Scorpion-cod, Sandy-bay Cod

Cook's Scorpionfish, Scorpaena cardinalis, at Phillip Rock, Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Source: Graham Edgar / Reef Life Survey. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


A well-camouflaged ambush predator found on the Lord Howe Rise and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea, and in northern New Zealand. The species was previously called Scorpaena cookii in Australia. Motomura et al. (2011) showed that S. cookii was a synonym of S. cardinalis.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Scorpaena cardinalis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 May 2024,

Cook's Scorpionfish, Scorpaena cardinalis Solander & Richardson 1842

More Info


Known from the Lord Howe Rise including Lord Howe Island, Middleton & Elizabeth Reefs, and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in northern New Zealand including the Kermadec Islands. Cook's Scorpionfish does not occur in waters of mainland Australia.

The species inhabits rock pools, boulder areas, crevices and caverns in shallow lagoons and offshore reefs to depths of 73 m. Cook's Scorpionfish is nocturnally active.


This well-camouflaged ambush predator feeds mostly on small fishes, and also consumes crabs, shrimps, and octopus.


Fished commercially off New Zealand, and considered very good eating.

Species Citation

Scorpaena cardinalis Solander & Richardson 1842, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. ns 9(57): 212. Type locality: Motuaro, Queen Charlotte's Sound, New Zealand.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Cook's Scorpionfish, Scorpaena cardinalis Solander & Richardson 1842


Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2 (as Scorpaena cookii)

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp. 

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp. (as Scorpaena cookii)

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2 (as Scorpaena cookii)

Günther, A. 1874. Andrew Garrett's Fische der Südsee. Heft 3. Journal des Museum Godeffroy, Hamburg 2(7): 49-96 pls 41-60 (as Scorpaena cookii)

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. (as Scorpaena cookii)

Motomura, H., Béarez, P. & Causse, R. 2011. Review of Indo-Pacific specimens of the subfamily Scorpaeninae (Scorpaenidae), deposited in the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, with description of a new species of Neomerinthe. Cybium 33(1): 55-73

Motomura, H. & Matsuura, K. 2016. Scorpaena cardinalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T69917385A70009717. Downloaded on 24 September 2018.

Motomura, H., Struthers, C.D., McGrouther, M.A. & Stewart, A.L. 2011. Validity of Scorpaena jacksoniensis and a redescription of S. cardinalis, a senior synonym of S. cookii (Scorpaeniformes: Scorpaenidae). Ichthyological Research 58: 315–332, figs 1-11

Poss, S.G. 1999. Families Scorpaenidae, Caracanthidae, Aploactinidae. pp. 2291-2358 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 2069-2790 pp. (p. 2335, as Scorpaena cookii)

Russell, B.C. 1983. The food and feeding habits of rocky reef fish of north-eastern New Zealand. N.Z. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 17(2): 121-145. (as Scorpaena cookii)

Solander, D.C. & Richardson, J. in Richardson, J. 1842. Contributions to the ichthyology of Australia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 9(57): 207-218 (as Scorpaena plebeia)

Waite, E.R. 1909. A list of the known fishes of Kermadec and Norfolk Islands, and a comparison with those of Lord Howe Island. Trans. N.Z. Inst. 42: 370-383. (as Scorpaena cookii)

Whitley, G.P. 1968. A check-list of the fishes recorded from the New Zealand region. The Australian Zoologist 15(1): 1-102 figs 1-2 (as Ruboralga cooki)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37287098

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Venomous fin spines

Depth:1-154 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:47 cm SL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map