The lionfish, which has been a constant showpiece in aquariums at home, is now growing as a species that is now becoming invasive throughout the U.S. Southeast and Caribbean coastal waters. Explore some nice Facts About Lionfish here!
This species is invasive and a threat to reef ecosystems since it is an extremely predatory species competing for food and space with native species that are overfished, such as grouper and snapper. Scientists are worried that lionfish may also decimate beneficial species like the algae-feeding parrotfish that allow seaweed to take over the reefs. In the U.S., the lionfish population is growing and extending its range.
The lionfish are not known to have predators and reproduce throughout the year. Mature females shed around two million eggs each year.
The scientific name is Pterois volitans (red lionfish) and Pterois miles (Devil firefish)
Lionfish have distinctive brown or maroon bands or stripes covering the body and head. The tentacles are fleshy over them and under their mouths and fan-like pectoral fins. Dorsal spines that are long and separated 13 dorsal spines, 10-11 dorsal soft rays, 3 anal spines, and 6-7 soft rays that are anal. A mature lionfish could grow up to 18 inches. However, juveniles can be as tiny as 1 millimeter. Lionfish have cycloid scales (fish scales that can be oval or circular with smooth edges).
Also, read 10 Amazing Jellyfish Facts For Kids
Native Range Native Range South Pacific and Indian Oceans (i.e., The Indo-Pacific zone). The lionfish’s range extends over a large area across the western part of Australia to Malaysia East to French Polynesia and the United Kingdom’s Pitcairn Islands, from the north and south Japan along with the southern part of Korea as well as south up down to Lord Howe Island off the east coast of Australia and the Kermadec Islands of New Zealand.
In between, the species is found throughout Micronesia.Non-native Range: Lionfish have been reported along the southeastern United States coast from Florida to North Carolina. The juvenile lionfish have been caught in the waters of Long Island, New York, as well as Bermuda. Lionfish are popular ornamental marine fish and could have been released intentionally to the Atlantic. The first sighting of a lionfish was within South Florida waters in 1985 and numerous additional sightings were reported before they were officially first observed in the early 2000s.
Habitat Lionfish occur in most marine habitats in warm or tropical waters. Lionfish have been observed in water depths ranging from 1-300 feet, on the hard bottom seagrass, mangrove coral, and artificial reefs (like shipwrecks).
Lionfish are slow-moving and noticeable, so they have to depend on their distinctive coloring and fins to deter predators who might be interested in taking them for food. Lionfish are currently one of the most feared predators in various coral reefs of the Atlantic. Lionfish consume more than 50 fish species, including some ecologically and economically significant species. Lionfish are avid hunters who capture their prey with fan-like, outstretched pectoral fins that slowly chase and “corner” them.
Habits Of Lionfish
Lionfish tend to be hunters at night. However, they’ve been observed with full stomachs throughout the day within the Atlantic. They move about slowly, bending the soft rays of their dorsal and anal fins. They can retreat to crevices and ledges in the corals and rocks in the daytime. However, in the Atlantic, lionfish can be observed moving around during the day, and often alone as well as within small groupings.
Economic Value: While lionfish are economically used for food in their natural habitat, they are significantly more important for the trade-in aquariums. Lionfish are a very sought-after and common fish in aquariums, particularly those in the U.S.
Also, read Fishing Facts
Conservation status: Lionfish have not yet been considered endangered or threatened in their natural habitat. However, the increasing amount of pollution that coral reefs suffer from could negatively impact the lionfish’s primary source of food (crustaceans and even fish). If lionfish cannot adapt to changes in the species they hunt, the lionfish numbers could decrease.
Special precautions Spines from this species can deliver a venomous sting that can endure for days, causing extreme pain, sweating and breathing problems, and paralysis. The lionfish venom glands are situated in two grooves on the spine. The venom is a combination of protein, a neuromuscular toxin, and a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (pronunciation: ah-see-toe-come-lean). When the spine cuts it, the venom is released into the wound and is placed in the venom glands inside these grooves on the spine. If you’ve been bitten by a lionfish, medical attention right away.
- Kingdom Animalia (all of the animal species)
- Phylum Chordata (animals with a spinal cord)
- Subphylum Vertebrata (animals that have bones)
- Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
- Order Scorpaeniformes (scorpion fishes and sculpins)
- Family Scorpaenidae (firefishes, goblin fishes scorpionfishes, and rockfishes)
- Genus Pterois (lionfishes as well as turkey dishes and Zebrafishes)
- Species – volitans (meaning volatile or poisonous.