Lionfish: Invasive Species In The Caribbean Sea

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Severe and sometimes irreversible consequences often accompany the introduction of invasive species. Invasive species may directly compete with native species, contribute to biodiversity, increase predation on native species, and destroy natural habitat, often at an extreme cost to the economy (Morris and Whitfield 2009). In the Caribbean Sea, two species of lionfish, the red lionfish (Pterois volitans) and common lionfish (Pterois miles), have been introduced to the area, and their range is rapidly expanding (Schofield 2009).
Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific region (Morris et al. 2009) and were likely introduced to the western Atlantic via the marine aquarium trade (Semmens et al. 2004). Their point of introduction is thought to be
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In the Gulf of Mexico, sightings are becoming more common. In 2004, lionfish became established in Bermuda, the Bahamas in 2005, Turks and Caicos in 2008, and the Cayman Islands in 2009. Lionfish were established in all islands of the Greater Antilles by 2007-2009, and some sightings have been reported throughout the Lesser Antilles. The Caribbean coast, all the way from Mexico through to Venezuela, has also seen the establishment of lionfish. Further expansion is probable, as lionfish tend to thrive in the warm waters of the western Atlantic (Schofield…show more content…
Coral reef systems in the Caribbean are presently stressed due to coral bleaching, overfishing, global climate change, and disruptive algal growth (Wilkinson and Souter 2008). The addition of a piscivorous, predatory invasive species, such as lionfish, will cause permanent damage to that ecosystem. Lionfish have caused a reduction in forage fish biomass, an increase in algal growth due to their removal of herbivorous fish, and an increase in competition with native fish (Morris et al. 2009). Lionfish have few, if any, natural predators due to the presence of venomous dorsal, ventral and anal spines (Halstead et al. 1955). Despite this, Maljković et al. (2008) reports that a tiger grouper (Mycteroperca tigris) caught in the Bahamas contained a red lionfish in its stomach. Through further anecdotal confirmation from fishermen, other native grouper species have been observed regularly preying on lionfish. Two Nassau groupers (Epinephelus striatus) were dissected and lionfish were found in this instance as well (Maljković et al. 2008). This information provided the first documented evidence of a native species preying on lionfish. While some animals are finding a way around the venomous spines of the lionfish, they also pose a threat to human safety. In humans, the spines cause nausea, vomiting, allergic reactions, a decrease in heart rate and force of contraction, and, although rare, death

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