[Coral-List] Lionfish invasion query - potential vectors involved in its apparent rapid, wide-scale spread...

Rob Hilliard, imco rhilliard at imco.com.au
Fri May 29 17:41:33 EDT 2009

Dear Listers

I was hoping Melissa Keyes' May 7 question (on why/how lionfish now seem 
to be spreading so fast and wide) would invoke some responses  - 
apologies if I've missed them!    

Is it right to assume this apparent rapid spread - and sometimes across 
large distances (e.g. outward to Bermuda / southwestward to central 
America and still going south ) is not an artifact?  Or is it because 
more divers in more areas are now specifically searching for it - but it 
is such an obvious species to spot....    

After its Florida discovery in the early nineties, is it correct to say 
that it showed a 'conventional' northward spread (Gulf stream assisted) 
- with its larvae occasionally showing up in New York by the early or 
mid naughties?)  

So if the apparent southward explosive spread  in the last 2-3 years is 
real, does it have the larval characters / juvenile behaviors to achieve 
it solely by self-spread  - and do the regional water current pathways 
match the chronologies of its reported sightings across the Caribbean? 

Or are there some human or seaweed rafting vectors lending a helping 
hand to the larvae or young?

Has anyone looked at the DNA - are they all closely related to the 
'founder' population off Florida?  Or does the evidence imply multiple 
releases by Caribbean aquariaists who can't be bothered to kill or 
return their pets to the shop?

I see there's a 2002 article (Whitfield) noting its potential to be 
spread by the ballast water of trading ships - does the current evidence 
/ knowledge base support this?

It strikes me that understanding how it's been spreading so widely  - 
and apparently so quickly - may help identify ways to slow it down or at 
least prevent large jumps - before it ends up along the whole western 
Atlantic seaboard - from north of the Carolinas to Cabo Frio / Rio - 
plus a large chunk of the west African coast plus the Atlantic islands 
in between...




Rob Hilliard PhD

InterMarine Consulting Pty Ltd

19 Burton Road, Darlington

Western Australia 6070

Mob:   +61 427 855 485

Office: +61 8 6394 0606

Fax:    +61 8 9255 4668

*rhilliard at imco.com.au <mailto:rhilliard at imco.com.au>*

*P**lease consider our environment before printing this e-mail


*Date: Thu, 7 May 2009 12:23:01 -0700 (PDT)
From: Melissa Keyes <mekvinga at yahoo.com>
Subject: [Coral-List] The Lionfish Invasion
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <917912.56428.qm at web50104.mail.re2.yahoo.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1

Hello, Listers,

Is there any theory as to how these fish are spreading?? From what I've gathered, they're first seen as large juveniles or adults? 
I've never seen a photo of a tiny one, do they resemble adults soon after being born/hatched?? Are the young much stronger swimmers 
to go so many miles???  To have gone across the Atlantic to Bermuda is amazing, but to have reached Belize, well, where do the 
currents go, anyway?

I think it's very very strange that Lionfish are just recently being seen in the Florida Keys? They've made it many hundreds of 
miles to the east and south of Miami, their origin.

Lionfish have recently arrived in the Virgin Islands, as adults.

We certainly cannot depend on large Groupers to eat many of them.


Melissa E. Keyes
Saint Croix, USVI

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