Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Caribbean's native predators unable to stop aggressive lionfish population growth

Date:
July 11, 2013
Source:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Summary:
"Ocean predator" conjures up images of sharks and barracudas, but the voracious red lionfish is out-eating them all in the Caribbean -- and Mother Nature appears unable to control its impact on local reef fish. That leaves human intervention as the most promising solution to the problem of this highly invasive species, said researchers.

Lionfish.
Credit: Walter Hackerott

"Ocean predator" conjures up images of sharks and barracudas, but the voracious red lionfish is out-eating them all in the Caribbean -- and Mother Nature appears unable to control its impact on local reef fish. That leaves human intervention as the most promising solution to the problem of this highly invasive species, said researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Lionfish are here to stay, and it appears that the only way to control them is by fishing them," said John Bruno, professor of biology in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences and lead investigator of the study. The research has important implications not just for Caribbean reefs, but for the North Carolina coast, where growing numbers of lionfish now threaten local fish populations.

Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have long been popular aquarium occupants, with their striking stripes and soft, waving fins. They also have venomous spines, making them unpleasant fare for predators, including humans -- though once the spines are carefully removed, lionfish are generally considered safe to eat, Bruno said.

They have become big marine news as the latest invasive species to threaten existing wildlife populations. Bruno likened their extraordinary success to that of ball pythons, now eating their way through Florida Everglades fauna, with few predators other than alligators and humans.

"When I began diving 10 years ago, lionfish were a rare and mysterious species seen deep within coral crevices in the Pacific Ocean," said Serena Hackerott, lead author and master's student in marine sciences, also in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. "They can now been seen across the Caribbean, hovering above the reefs throughout the day and gathering in groups of up to ten or more on a single coral head."

The international research team looked at whether native reef predators such as sharks and groupers could help control the population growth of red lionfish in the Caribbean, either by eating them or out-competing them for prey. They also wanted to evaluate scientifically whether, as some speculate, that overfishing of reef predators had allowed the lionfish population to grow unchecked.

The team surveyed 71 reefs, in three different regions of the Caribbean, over three years. Their results indicate there is no relationship between the density of lionfish and that of native predators, suggesting that, "interactions with native predators do not influence" the number of lionfish in those areas, the study said.

The researchers did find that lionfish populations were lower in protected reefs, attributing that to targeted removal by reef managers, rather than consumption by large fishes in the protected areas. Hackerott noted that during 2013 reef surveys, there appeared to be fewer lionfish on popular dive sites in Belize, where divers and reef managers remove lionfish daily.

The researchers support restoration of large-reef predators as a way to achieve better balance and biodiversity, but they are not optimistic that this would affect the burgeoning lionfish population.

"Active and direct management, perhaps in the form of sustained culling, appears to be essential to curbing local lionfish abundance and efforts to promote such activities should be encouraged," the study concluded.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Serena Hackerott, Abel Valdivia, Stephanie J. Green, Isabelle M. Côté, Courtney E. Cox, Lad Akins, Craig A. Layman, William F. Precht, John F. Bruno. Native Predators Do Not Influence Invasion Success of Pacific Lionfish on Caribbean Reefs. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (7): e68259 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068259

Cite This Page:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Caribbean's native predators unable to stop aggressive lionfish population growth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130711172538.htm>.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2013, July 11). Caribbean's native predators unable to stop aggressive lionfish population growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130711172538.htm
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Caribbean's native predators unable to stop aggressive lionfish population growth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130711172538.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins