Member Highlight: Lionfish Genes Studied For Clues To Invasive Prowess

2019-05-20T13:43:47+00:00 May 13, 2019|
(Credit: David Clode/Unsplash)

(Credit: David Clode/Unsplash)

(From North Carolina State University/ By Mick Kulikowski) — What makes the red lionfish (Pterois volitans) such a successful and powerful invader in Atlantic Ocean waters compared to its rather lamblike existence in its native Pacific Ocean?

A new North Carolina State University study examining two native lionfish regions in the Pacific and five invading regions in the Atlantic showed the greatest genetic similarities between lionfish in the region of Taiwan and the Bahamas, suggesting a population near Taiwan was the source of the invading species.

Lionfish were introduced to the Atlantic in the mid-1980s, most likely as the result of a marine ornamental aquarium trade. In the Atlantic, P. volitans acts differently from the native Pacific species. Known to be shadowy and furtive in their native Pacific waters, lionfish – freed from Pacific predators – become voracious predators in the Atlantic, responsible for massive reef fish kills, devastating economically important grouper and snapper. Plus, they rival rabbits in procreation.

P. volitans has a lot going for it in Atlantic waters,” said Martha Burford Reiskind, research assistant professor of applied ecology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper describing the research. “They are found at high densities and in some cases can spawn every four days in the Atlantic; their eggs can travel great distances on ocean currents, exacerbating their spread.

“They are also difficult to handle because…

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