Friday, March 06, 2009

Photo of the week

In the past year, I've heard from a couple colleagues who work in the Caribbean about the large spread of lionfish, a colorful reef fish native to the Indo-Pacific. It is thought that a few lionfish were accidentally introduced through a broken tank at a large private aquarium in Miami and/or by some hobby aquarium owners.

You can find them now in many parts of the Caribbean, apparently including Cuba, where I spotted this fellow under a rock a couple weeks back. I'm definitely not an expert on lionfish, but you don't need to be an icthyologist to spot this aptly named species!

A welcome new addition to Caribbean reefs? Not quite. As if Caribbean coral reef ecosystems were not already under enough pressure, lionfish are invasive predators that are capable of removing much of the native reef fish stock and altering ecosystem dynamics [any experts wish to elaborate in the comments?].

If you are interested, the US Geological Survey has a terrific Google Map showing all the reported sightings across the Caribbean, including the recent sightings in the Florida Keys.

2 comments:

naught101 said...

Wow, what a bastard. Their spines are poisonous too, so they aren't gonna be a popular catch. Looks like it'll be a pretty hard job to remove them now...

If that was an intentional release (and how else would there be enough breeding pairs?), that person ought to be drawn and quartered...

Simon D said...

There are efforts underway to discourage the spread, but a lot of damage has already been done.

From what I've heard, the release was likely "accidental" -- six lionfish were reported missing after hurricane damage to a large aquarium in Miami about fifteen years ago. Follow the links above for more info.