Lionfish are Fat and Scared

Fat Lionfish












Here is the latest specimen, killed yesterday in the Bight of Old Robinson
on Abaco.  This is part of a 5 year on-going study of the diets of lionfish in
this area (one of our first papers on this data set here).  One of the things
we are studying is if diets of the predator shift over time.  Some researchers,
including Isabelle Cote’s group on New Providence (check out her web page
and cool research podcasts), have noticed a possible shift toward consuming
more invertebrates.  The presumed reason is that lionfish have depleted their
preferred fish prey, and then shift to other prey items.

We have not seen this same shift on Abaco.  Lionfish still are consuming
primarily fish, including the fatty individual above that had eaten two wrasses
and a juvenile parrotfish.  We wonder if it is because lionfish are being culled
so intensely in the area, both by our research team as well as a number of local
divers and fishers.  Perhaps the lionfish population is being kept to a size at
which small fish populations are not being depleted, whereas in other areas
lionfish are so abundant that they do deplete their preferred prey fish.

But one thing is clear in the Bight on Abaco – lionfish behavior is now totally
different.  Five years ago, lionfish were commonly seen swimming above
reefs in the middle of the day.  Now, one has to search much more carefully
to see one – they primarily remain hidden in coral or rock crevices during
daylight hours (see photo below).  I am convinced that this is a function of
the directed removal  efforts in the area, only leaving those individuals that
are more “shy”.  Have  others seen this behavioral trend in areas where lionfish
are being removed frequently?

A lot more on this observation to come.  Isabelle has a study in review
documenting this behavioral pattern, and I will follow up when reviews
are in.

Scared lionfish

By | 2017-12-01T14:03:18-05:00 December 10th, 2013|Categories: Fish, Invasive Species, lionfish, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Lionfish are Fat and Scared

About the Author:

Craig Layman
My lab’s interdisciplinary pursuits provide for a multi-faceted understanding of environmental change in the coastal realm. We are ecologists, asking questions that span population, community, ecosystem and evolutionary sub-disciplines. We often use a food web based perspective, exploring top-down (e.g., predation) and bottom-up (e.g., nutrient excretion) mechanisms by which animals affect ecosystem processes. All of our efforts are framed within a broader outreach framework, directly integrating science and education, using approaches such as this website.