[Coral-List] Lionfish in the Atlantic

Mark A. Albins albinsm at science.oregonstate.edu
Wed Feb 20 16:59:42 EST 2008

Several adult Indo-Pacific lionfish were released from an aquarium at
Biscayne Bay, FL in 1992 (1).  While this particular event represents
the release of a potential founding population, it is likely that the
lionfish invasion is indeed fueled by continued intentional and
unintentional aquarium releases.  Lionfish have now been reported from
as far north as Rhode Island (only juveniles are found this far north,
while adults seem to be limited to waters south of Cape Hatteras, NC)
to as far south as the Lessor Antilles (2).  In the Bahamas their
numbers have increased significantly  over the last few years.  Our
lab is currently carrying out a series of observational and
experimental investigations to determine the ecological impacts of
this invasive species in the Bahamas.

P. volitans/miles appears to target a wide range of reef organisms in
the Bahamas, including several families of bony fishes (both schooling
midwater juveniles such as grunts and cryptic benthic adults such as
gobies and blennies) and several types of crustaceans (both shrimps
and crabs).  These voracious predators use their ornate oversized
pectoral fins to herd, corner, and eat prey.  This particular
predation strategy is novel to the invaded system (native prey are
evolutionarily naive to it) and as such, may confer a high level of
predation efficiency, making lionfish particularly likely to have a
high ecological impact on invaded communities.  The success of this
novel predation strategy in the invaded system may also explain, at
least in part, the apparently rapid spread of lionfish in the Atlantic.

As far as other marine fish introductions go, they are relatively
rare, and for the most part they have been a result of intentional
stocking programs.  The Lutjanus kasmira (taape) introduction in
Hawaii is a good example.  L. kasmira was intentionally stocked in the
1950's in the Main Hawaiian Islands, and has now spread as far north
as Kure atoll (the north-westernmost island in the Hawaiian
Archipelago).  It is often the most abundant reef fish on visual
transect surveys throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and yet it's
ecological impacts have not been thoroughly examined (but see 3)

1.  Courtenay, W. R. 1995. Marine fish
introductions in southeastern Florida. American Fisheries Society
Introduced Fish Section Newsletter 14:2-3.

2.  Hare, J. A., and P. E. Whitfield. 2003. An integrated assessment of the
introduction of lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles complex) to the
western Atlantic Ocean. Pages 21 in. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS

3.  Friedlander, M., J. D. Parrish, and R. C. DeFelice. 2002. Ecology of
the introduced snapper Lutjanus kasmira (Forsskal) in the reef fish
assemblage of a Hawaiian bay. Journal of Fish Biology 60:28-48.



Mark A. Albins
Department of Zoology
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-2914
phone:  (541) 740-7747
fax:     (541) 737-0501

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