Photographer: Unknown Affiliation: U.S. Geological Survey Archive Source: Bugwood.org Copyright: (CC BY-NC 3.0)
The Red Lionfish, Pterois
Red Lionfish have the potential to devastate local reef communities due to their aggressiveness,
Red Lionfish feed on crustaceans, other invertebrates, and over 40 different species of fish. They forage among coral reefs and are very opportunistic. Red Lionfish are also known to adapt to new prey items quickly, which allows them to infiltrate novel habitats with ease. In addition to aggressively feeding, Red Lionfish are quite fecund. Females are able to lay eggs every 4 days in the Bahamas, and can spawn throughout the year. This means that female Lionfish are able to lay about 2 Million eggs annually! This amazing fecundity, combined with their aggressiveness makes Red Lionfish a dangerous invasive species for indigenous coral reef ecosystems.
It is speculated that the Red Lionfish was introduced to United States waters sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The most probable method of introduction is via the aquarium trade; owners often dump unwanted pets into the ocean when they become too large or expensive to keep any longer. Another hypothesized method of introduction was during Hurricane Andrew. It is thought that the hurricane destroyed an aquarium and all its contents were washed away into the ocean.
Occurs in the West Pacific ocean.
U.S. Habitat: Red Lionfish prefer to live near reefs in depths between 10-175m. Red Lionfish like all others in the Scorpionfish family camouflage themselves at the reef bottom. Their brilliant colors
U.S. Present: Currently, the Red Lionfish dominates the coral reef habitats in the Bahamas, and strong efforts have been made to prevent breeding populations in the United States Virgin Islands, Florida Keys, and the Gulf of Mexico. Red Lionfish have been spotted as far up the Gulf Coast as Louisiana waters. Some feel that without proper management, it is just a matter of time before the Red Lionfish inhabits all Gulf waters.
Texas: In 2011 Red Lionfish were first spotted in the NOAA Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary (roughly 105 miles from the Texas shore) and by 2015 over 2600 Red Lionfish were found
May be confused for other Scorpionfish, but most probably can be mistaken for the Devil Lionfish, Pterois miles, a close relative and also an invasive, though not as prevalent as the Red Lionfish Pterois
Various methods for management have been undertaken along United States waters. These activities include
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Courtenay WR (1995) Marine fish introductions in southeastern Florida. American Fisheries Society Introduced Fish Section Newsletter 1995(14):2–3.
Meister, H. S., Wyanski, D. M., Loefer, J. K., Ross, S. W., Quattrini, A. M., & Sulak, K. J. (2005). Further evidence for the invasion and establishment of Pterois
Ray C, Coates CW (1958) A case of poisoning by the lionfish, Pterois volitans. Copeia 1958(3):235
Whitfield, Paula, Todd Gardner, and Stephen Vives. (2002) "Biological invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois