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Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Scorpaenidae
Subfamily: Synanceiinae
Swainson, 1839[1]
Type species
Scorpaena horrida

see text

Synanceiinae is a subfamily of venomous ray-finned fishes, waspfishes, which is classified as part of the family Scorpaenidae, the scorpionfishes and their relatives. These fishes are found in the Indo-Pacific oceans. They are primarily marine, though some species are known to live in fresh or brackish waters. The various species of this family are known informally as stonefish, stinger, stingfish and ghouls. Its species are known to have the most potent neurotoxins of all the fish venoms, secreted from glands at the base of their needle-like dorsal fin spines. The vernacular name, stonefish, for some of these fishes derives from their behaviour of camouflaging as rocks. The type species of the family is the estuarine stonefish (Synanceia horrida).


Synanceiinae, or the family Synanceiidae, was first named and recognised as a grouping of related taxa by the English naturalist William John Swainson in 1839.[1] The 5th edition of Fishes of the World treats this grouping as a subfamily within the family Scorpaenidae, dividing the subfamily into the three tribes: Minoini, Choridactylini and Synanceiini.[3] Other authorities differ in their treatment of this grouping, regarding Synanceiidae as a valid family within the suborder Scorpaenoidei which they include in the order Perciformes, treating the tribes as subfamilies.[4] In addition, some authorities, e.g Catalog of Fishes, define the Synanceiidae to include other related taxa not included by Fishes of the World, the Apistinae and Tetraroginae, which Fishes of the World places in the Scorpaenidae; as well as the subfamilies Aploactininae, Eschmeyerinae, Gnathanacanthinae, Pataecinae and Perryeninae which are also included, whereas Fishes of the World treats these as families.[5] The taxon name is based on that of the genus Synanceia, which was described by Bloch & Schneider in 1801, combining syn, meaning "with", and angeíon, which means "cavity", an allusion to the large, cavernous heads of species placed in the genus.[6]

Tribes and genera[edit]

The subfamily Synanceiinae is classified into three tribes and nine genera:[3]


Synanceiinae species are characterised by having bodies which are not covered in scales, with the exception of the embedded scales along their lateral lines and on some other areas of the body. The body is covered with glands in the skin. They have large heads. They typically do not have a swim bladder. There are venom glands at the base of the spines in the dorsal fin, the spines acting like hypodermic syringes to inject the venom. The venom is neurotoxic and is among the most toxic of venoms produced by fishes. It has been known to be fatal to humans.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Synanceiinae species are found in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, including the Red Sea. They are found in marine, brackish and freshwater habitats.[7]


  1. ^ a b Richard van der Laan; William N. Eschmeyer & Ronald Fricke (2014). "Family-group names of Recent fishes". Zootaxa. 3882 (2): 001–230. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3882.1.1. PMID 25543675.
  2. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Species in the genus Synanceia". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  3. ^ a b c J. S. Nelson; T. C. Grande; M. V. H. Wilson (2016). Fishes of the World (5th ed.). Wiley. pp. 468–475. ISBN 978-1-118-34233-6.
  4. ^ Ricardo Betancur-R; Edward O. Wiley; Gloria Arratia; et al. (2017). "Phylogenetic classification of bony fishes". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17 (162): 162. doi:10.1186/s12862-017-0958-3. PMC 5501477. PMID 28683774.
  5. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Genera in the family Synanceiidae". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  6. ^ Christopher Scharpf & Kenneth J. Lazara, eds. (31 March 2022). "Order Perciformes (Part 10): Suborder Scorpaenoidei: Families Apistidae, Tetrarogidae, Synanceiidae, Aploacrinidae, Perryenidae, Eschmeyeridae, Pataceidae, Gnathanacanthidae, Congiopodidae and Zanclorhynchidae". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  7. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2022). "Synanceiidae" in FishBase. February 2022 version.