Age and Growth of Invasive Lionfish: North Carolina, USA vs Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

Lionfish are an invasive species that are now well established throughout the Atlantic. Originally from the Indo-Pacific, they have decimated local fish populations due to their rapid reproduction, broad environmental tolerance, voracious appetite, and lack of predators. Through the examination of otoliths paired with morphometric data, this study investigates the age and growth of lionfish (sp. P. volitans) from two locations: North Carolina, USA and Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. Otoliths were extracted from lionfish samples, embedded in resin, and then sectioned so that age could be determined with microscopic analy- sis. These age estimates along with the corresponding total lengths were used to calculate growth rates via the von Bertalanffy growth equation. Results returned a K and L-infinity value of 0.32 cm and 42.5 cm for lionfish from NC and 0.39 cm and 38.7 cm for Bonaire, respectively. The average total length of lionfish collected in Bonaire was 12.8 cm while North Carolina lionfish was 27.6 cm. Furthermore, the age range of lionfish collected in North Carolina was 0.6–6.0 years old with an average age of 2 years old. Bonaire lionfish showed a range of 0.1–5.0 years old with an average age of 1 year. Statistical analyses showed a significant relationship between age and total length as well as location and total length. Overall, these findings suggest that lionfish from North Carolina survive longer, growing older and larger, than that of lionfish from Bonaire. This likely attributes to: the differing start dates of the invasion; Bergmann’s Rule; and other environmental influences such as climate, resource accessibility, and removal efforts between the two localities 

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