The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Fishes >> Class Actinopterygii

[kab' uh zon] Scorpaenichthys marmoratus


"Cabezon" means "large head" in Spanish, which is appropriate since the head is the largest feature of this fish. The specific name marmoratus refers to the marbled or mottled appearance of the body, which can be reddish, greenish, or bronze. Cabezon have two fins on the back and five soft rays on the pelvic fins. They lack scales and have a fleshy skin flap between their nostrils. They can measure up to 40 inches in length and weigh up to 25 pounds.

Distribution and Habitat

Cabezon inhabit the eastern Pacific, from southeastern Alaska to the Baja Peninsula. They are found in intertidal waters, down to a depth of 250 feet, and are usually associated with reefs, boulders, kelp, or eelgrass.


Cabezon are ambush predators. Their mottled coloration lets them blend in with their surroundings as they sit motionless to wait for their next meal. With large, robust pectoral fins set low on the body and a powerful tail, they quickly lunge after unwary prey, engulfing it in their large mouth. Adult fish eat crabs, small lobsters, mollusks, small fish, and fish eggs.


In California, spawning commences in late October, peaks in January, and continues until March. Females spawn their eggs on intertidal and subtidal, algae-free rocky surfaces, primarily in crevices and under rocks. Masses of the pale green or reddish eggs are up to18 inches in diameter and up to four inches thick. Males fertilize the eggs after spawning by the female, and each male guards his nest during the 2-3 week period that the eggs mature. The larval young drift out to sea, then develop into small, silvery fish that often hide under mats of drifting kelp. As they grow older, the fish settle into tide pools, then move to reefs and kelp forests. They can live up to 14 years in the wild.

Other Information

Cabezon eggs are toxic to humans and most other mammals, as well as to many birds

Cabezon are generally solitary. Most of their time is spent sitting in holes, on reefs, in pools, or on kelp blades beneath the canopy, but not actively swimming.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
superclass Osteichthyes
class Actinopterygii
order Scorpaeniformes
family Cottidae
genus & species Scorpaenichthys marmoratus

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Fishes >> Class Actinopterygii

This page was last updated on March 02, 2017.