information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Long-spined sea scorpion (Taurulus bubalis)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



Taurulus bubalis is a distinctive rocky shore fish up to 20 cm in length with a broad bony head that tapers to the tail. The eyes and mouth are very large as this species is an ambush predator. Colour is variable and they can match their surroundings with great accuracy. The head and first dorsal fin are spiny with one very long spine on the cheek.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Common on all coasts of Britain and Ireland on rocky grounds, generally amongst algae.

Global distribution

From northern Norway to southern Spain, rarely in the Mediterranean.


On rocky ground, amongst algae from the intertidal to depths of 30 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Two dorsal fins.
  • Large head in proportion to body.
  • Scaleless skin.
  • Barbel at the corners of the mouth.
  • Very long spine on the cheek (behind the eye and above the pectoral fin).

Additional information

May be confused with the bull rout (short-spined scorpion fish)  Myoxocephalus scorpius. The bull rout is much larger when full grown and lacks the very long cheek spine and mouth barbel. Taurulus bubalis feeds on crabs, shrimps and fish in shallow water and rockpools and will remain motionless if discovered, relying on its camouflage to avoid detection.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

FishBase (

Search on:


  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  2. FishBase, 2000. FishBase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2001-05-03

  3. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  4. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. 1990. The marine fauna of the British Isles and north-west Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  6. Naylor, P., 2000. Marine Animals of the South West. Plymouth: Sound Diving Publications

  7. Wheeler, A., 1969. The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe. London: Macmillan.

  8. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1976. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean.


This review can be cited as:

Neal, K.J. 2008. Taurulus bubalis Long-spined sea scorpion. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 17-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 29/04/2008