Sunday, March 30, 2014

Invasive Species - Lion Fish

Red lionfish (Pterois volitans)
A problem has been growing off the east coast of the United States. An animal that is known for its beauty and venomous spines, the lion fish, has invaded the waters and its population continues to grow larger. After the first definite sighting in 2002 of a fish off the coast of North Carolina, these fish began popping up all the way from south Florida to as far north as Long Island.

Devil firefish (Pterois miles), aka the common lionfish
There are actually two species involved in this invasion, the red lionfish (Pterois volitans) and the devil firefish (Pterois miles). The exact source of the fish is unclear, but it's believed to be due in part to an unfortunate accident during to Hurricane Andrew. Its likely private aquarium owners are also to blame, as the irresponsible are known to release their unwanted fish into various waterways. This is a terribly common story behind many invasive species.

I first learned about this problem in 2009 and these animals have only grown more numerous in the past few years. They pose serious dangers to reef organisms, as they are quite voracious predators.

Interestingly enough, they are apparently delicious. So, if you are so inclined, some careful fishing could net you quite the interesting meal.

References are the Global Invasive Species Database, Sailors for the Sea, NOAA, and CNN. Images used are from Wikimedia Commons and are under Creative Commons licenses: one, two.


  1. When I was a kid, we had neighbors that had one of these in a saltwater tank. I used to sell him guppies as feeders. The lionfish would swoop up behind the guppies and bite just the body, leaving the heads.