Last week I mentioned our recent paper on lionfish diets on Abaco. Here is a
second paper from our research in Florida that looks at lionfish movement
patterns – the first published tagging study conducted on lionfish.
We used a color-coded bead tags to identify individual lionfish. Surveys were conducted over the course of a year to record where the tagged lionfish were found in relation to their tagging location. Here is a picture of a lionfish with our color coded beads….
There were three major take home points from this study:
(1) Lionfish are almost exclusively found on man-made structures in this estuarine ecosystem – along the base of sea walls, adjacent to dock pilings, and associated with other piles of human debris. Even in The Bahamas, where such artificial structure is less common along shorelines, lionfish seem to have an affinity for unnatural habitat types. There has been no confirmed explanation for this pattern.
(2) Lionfish have very high site fidelity – they move very little. The graph below shows the distribution of movement distances over the course of the study. Most fish were re-sighted within 10m of their original tagging location, with some individuals remaining on the same dock piling (the exact same piling – not just the same dock) for weeks at a time. Perhaps because of extreme prey naivety, they dont have to move around to forage like other native fishes. They instead can just feed on those prey that move past the resident lionfish.
(3) We also report the first in situ estimates of lionfish growth rates. The sub-adult lionfish grew at an amazing rate. The mean daily growth rate (± standard deviation) based on 35 physical recaptures was 0.46 ± 0.13 mm/day. The most rapid growth rate was 0.78 mm/day in an individual that grew from 68 to 86 mm SL in 23 days.
In short, lionfish eat what they want, move around very little, and grow quickly.