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March 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 37, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Lionfish’s Fear of Being Eaten

could the groupers’ appetite be crucial?

from the March, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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The fish stared at me, and I stared right back, taking in its tiger-like red and white stripes, its flamboyant, fan-like pectoral fins, and the row of venomous, upright spines along its back. Thin pieces of its flesh swayed ominously on the spikes in the ocean currents.

Lionfish have few natural predators, and venomous spines deter potential predators.

The lionfish is a striking creature. There is no wonder why it is a popular fish in the aquarium trade.

But the lionfish is also infamous, at the center of one of the most well documented and concerning marine fish invasions in history. Large individuals are often bold and will position themselves in a head-down, menacing posture with flaring fins and swaying spines, toward any potential threat, including divers like me.

I was on a reef off Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, where I was studying the interactions between native predatory fishes and invasive lionfish.

The lionfish has few natural predators, and its venomous spines pose a major problem for marine managers because they deter potential predators that could naturally control the growth of this invader's population. I hoped my research might show that at least some predators in the Bahamas could challenge the successful takeover of reefs by lionfish....

Large groupers may evoke fear in smaller lionfish.

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