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 October 20, 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 October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) — Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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