[Coral-List] FW: Lion fish question

Mcguire,Maia Patterson mpmcg at ufl.edu
Wed Apr 17 16:31:29 EDT 2013


The primary source cited as evidence that lionfish decrease native fish populations is Albins & Hixon 2008 ("Invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans reduce recruitment of Atlantic coral-reef fishes.") published in Marine Ecology Progress Series (Vol 367: 233-238). In this study, lionfish were introduced to small artificial reefs in the Bahamas. Other replicate reefs did not have lionfish. Recruitment of native fishes was 79% lower on reefs with lionfish compared to those without. The implication is that lionfish were preying on the native fish (as opposed to scaring them away) and this seems to be supported by other studies that have analyzed gut contents.

Densities of lionfish in the Bahamas are very high (Green & Cote report densities of 393 (+/- 144) lionfish per hectare for New Providence in 2009--Coral Reefs 28: 107). Additionally, lionfish are growing larger in the Atlantic than they do in their native range. A study published by Darling et al. in Biological Invasions (2011; vol 13 (9): 2045-2051) compared lionfish densities and abundance in the Bahamas with those in Kenya (where 5 species of lionfish occur). They found that densities of lionfish in the two locations were not significantly different (when all lionfish species in a given location were combined). However, they reported, "As a result of both higher abundance and larger body size, the total biomass of lionfish on Bahamian reefs was 13 times higher than the biomass of P. miles on Kenyan reefs, and more than six times higher than the biomass of all lionfish species on Kenyan reefs."

By contrast, in Palau, densities of 4 lionfish species combined were only about 21 individuals/hectare (Grubich et al. 2009. Coral Reefs 28 (3): 807)

There is still a need for much information about the direct and indirect impacts of the lionfish invasion (and many studies are currently underway), but evidence of predation by native Atlantic species on lionfish to date is minimal...and the studies cited above definitely lend credibility to the premise that lionfish are having an impact on native fish populations in the western Atlantic...


Maia McGuire, PhD
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
150 Sawgrass Road
Bunnell, FL 32110


Educational videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/IFASCDistrict

From: Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Network [GCFINET at LISTSERV.GCFI..ORG] on behalf of Georgina Bustamante [gbustamante09 at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 3:17 PM
Subject: [GCFINET] FW: [Coral-List] Lion fish question

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Steve Mussman
Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 2:15 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Lion fish question

   This story is among many that has appeared recently in the main stream
   media. It compares the impact
   of lion fish to "a living oil spill".

   My  question  is  what  scientific evidence is there that reduced fish
   populations and / or reef decline
   is directly related to the lion fish invasion?
   Is it possible that lion fish are in fact becoming a convenient
   I realize that they are likely contributing to the problem, but are we
   overlooking other more prominent factors?
   Natural predatory behavior seems to be developing as some reef species
   learning to feed on lion fish.
   As far as I know reef fish are still abundant on the Pacific reefs where
   lion fish are indigenous even though
   they have few known predators in their natural surroundings.
   I just returned from a Caribbean destination where it appeared obvious
   on my personal baseline that
   the reefs are in decline. There were many lion fish spotted and speared,
   do we really know if the impact
   of this invasive species is as profound as many are asserting?
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