Lionfish and Its Environment

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In the late 1990s, a species was introduced into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, becoming an invasive species: the lionfish. The lionfish, a venomous marine fish found mostly in the Indo-Pacific waters, is distinguished by its red, white, and black stripes, striking pectoral fins and its venomous spiky fin rays. The lionfish ranges in its size from 6.2 to 42.2 cm, with an average adult measuring the size of 38cm and weighing 480 grams, living 5-15 years. This venomous species is well known for its beautiful venomous spines and unique tentacles. Younger lionfish have a unique tentacle above their eye sockets, which differs in appearance between species, but studies show that this tentacle has evolved over time in each species serving to attract new prey. Juvenile lionfish eat mostly invertebrates, but shift their diet to fish as adults and eat reef fish. Adult lionfish spread their pectoral fins and use them to "herd" prey. This is a very effective predatory style because it is unfamiliar to native Florida fish. However, Lionfish can have negative effects on the overall reef habitat as they can eliminate organisms which serve important ecological roles such as herbivorous fish which keep algae in-check on the reefs. Lionfish usually prefer living in still waters protected from any current, in quieter and darker parts of the reef; they are also known to exist in bays, estuaries and harbors. A female lionfish will release between 4,000 and 30,000 eggs during mating to be fertilized by the male’s sperm. This invasive species is growing and spreading rapidly through the Americas. It is uncertain how the lionfish arrived. Tests have suggested that only a few lionfish might have entered the Florida waters in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew swept through or they might have been released by an aquarium. Whatever the case, those few lionfish have multiplied rapidly; the

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