Lionfish memo to coral reefs in the Bahamas: There’s a new predator in town. Native to the South Pacific, the invasive lionfish is reducing the abundance of native fishes on coral reefs in the Bahamas (see “Deep Ecology,” in Terra, spring 2008). OSU zoologist Mark Hixon leads a team of graduate students and other collaborators working to understand the impacts as well as the factors that naturally control this voracious predator in its native habitat.
In lab and field studies conducted in 2010, they are comparing Bahamian reef systems with and without lionfish and have demonstrated that lionfish outcompete Nassau grouper, which are native to the Bahamas, for access to reef shelters. Lionfish do not eat small grouper, and grouper do not affect lionfish as either a predator or a habitat competitor.
Ongoing studies include lionfish behavior and ecology in the invaded and the native ranges and daily activity observations, as well as patterns of growth and survival.
See Mark Hixon’s 2010 “Oceans of Life” presentation, including videos of lionfish feeding.
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