Blue Zoo: Lionfish


Featuring one amazing marine animal per week.

Named for the poisonous spines on their back and striped fins that fan out like a lion’s mane, there are actually 15 species in the genus Pterois, known as Lionfish.

Usually found on the edges of reefs in the Indo-Pacific, they were introduced in the Atlantic possibly as early as 1985, likely released by an unknowing aquarist.

Since then, Lionfish have taken over marine ecosystems from the US East Coast to the Caribbean Sea. Fierce predators, they’ve wiped out local fish populations in widespread areas, and have the advantage of not suffering from parasites that local fish do. Listen to a story about it here.

Lion fish have bilateral swim bladder muscles that allow them to alter their center of gravity when attacking prey. Lionfish fan out their large pectoral fins and swallow their prey whole. They have been known to use their fins to round up smaller fish into an area where they can more easily eat them.

In an effort to control the invasive species, campaigns have sprung up to make them more popular in restaurants, and Rangers in Roatan Marine Park, Honduras, are trying to train sharks to eat Lionfish. Lionfish have almost no predators because of intensely venomous spines on their backs, but sharks seem immune to the spines.

While they are popular as a delicacy in Asia, they are more commonly used as aquarium fish on other parts of the world.

This fish epitomizes the saying, “Look but don’t touch!”

 

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