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

Lesser weever fish (Echiichthys vipera)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



The lesser weever fish has a short stout body and grows up to 14cm in length. It has a large sloping mouth and pointed snout with eyes high on the head. The first dorsal fin is triangular and entirely black with an elongated first spine on the male. The second dorsal and anal fins extend almost to the tail and the pectoral fins are large and paddle shaped. The gill covers have a long spine pointing backwards. The fish is yellowish brown with a paler underside.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found all around Britain, most abundant in the south and west.

Global distribution



Common on clean sandy bottoms from the low water mark to the shallow sub-littoral down to 50 m. The species lives buried in the sand with only the head and back uncovered. The species is probably most active at night.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Oblique upward pointing mouth.
  • Small, black first dorsal fin.
  • Long second dorsal fin.
  • Large paddle shaped pectoral fins.
  • Yellowish brown in colour with a paler underside.

    Additional information

    The spines of the first dorsal fin and gill covers release a poison that give an extremely painful sting to bathers or fishermen treading on the buried fish. The name weever is derived from the Anglo-saxon word meaning viper and reflects the venomous nature of the fish.

    Listed by

    - none -

    Further information sources

    Search on:


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

    2. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    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. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of 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. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

    7. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017


    This review can be cited as:

    Pizzolla, P.F 2002. Echiichthys vipera Lesser weever fish. 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 22-09-2018]. Available from:

    Last Updated: 11/10/2002