Arrington, D.A.

Recent invasion of a Florida (USA) estuarine system by lionfish Pterois volitans / P. miles

The invasion by lionfish Pterois volitans and P. miles throughout the western Atlantic and Caribbean is emerging as a serious ecological problem. While lionfish have been identified on coral reefs and in other marine systems, additional ecosystems may be affected as the invasion spreads. Here we identify the first estuarine intrusion by lionfish in their invasive range. Lionfish (n = 211) were captured in the Loxahatchee River estuary (Florida, USA) between August 2010 and April 2011, with some individuals located as far as ~5.5 km from the ocean. Multiple size classes were documented (standard lengths ranged from 23 to 185 mm), and post-settlement juveniles were present throughout the sampling period. All individuals were found in close association with anthropogenically created habitats (e.g. docks, sea walls, submerged debris), suggesting that humandriven changes in habitat availability may facilitate estuarine invasion. Fifteen prey taxa were found in lionfish stomachs, with diets dominated by small shrimp. Since estuaries are already highly threatened by human impacts, and provide critical habitat for numerous commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important species, establishment of lionfish in these ecosystems is of particular concern

Data type
Scientific article
Research and monitoring