Lionfish may stress Caribbean reefs

| 12/04/2011

(Science Magazine): The extent and speed of the lionfish spread is unprecedented and may stress reefs, say scientists. "Nothing like this has been seen before in these waters," said Dr Pam Schofield, a biologist with the USGS Southeast Ecological Science Centre in Florida. "We’ve observed sightings of numerous non-native species, but the extent and speed with which lionfish have spread has been unprecedented; lionfishes pretty much blanketed the Caribbean in three short years." More than 30 species of non-native marine fishes have been sighted off the coast of Florida alone, but until now none of these have demonstrated the ability to survive, reproduce, and spread successfully.

Although lionfishes originally came from the Indo-West Pacific Ocean, there are now self-sustaining populations spreading along the western Atlantic coast of the U.S. and throughout the Caribbean.

It is not yet clear exactly how the new invasive species will affect reefs in this part of the world. Foremost on the minds of scientists is the lionfishes’ predatory behavior, which may negatively impact native species in the newly invaded ecosystems.

They have already been observed preying on and competing with a wide range of native species.

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