Anti-predator responses of herbivorous ocean surgeonfish, Acanthurus bahianus, to invasive lionfish, Pterois volitans

Since their introduction into the western Atlantic, lionfish (Pterois volitans) have become a major threat to the coral-reef ecosystems. Lionfish have proven to be formidable predators and it has been demonstrated that they have to potential to reduce recruitment of native fishes and even contribute to phase shifts. It is known that lionfish are capable of hunting and catching many species of native fishes, however little is known about the anti- predator responses of those prey fish. This study examined the antipredator responses of herbivorous ocean surgeonfish to lionfish. The ocean surgeonfish were visually exposed to a lionfish and their resulting behaviors were analyzed to determine if the fish exhibited an anti-predator response to an invasive predator. The naïve prey hypothesis predicts that prey will not react to predators if they do not share an evolutionary history with those predators, therefore it was predicted that juvenile ocean surgeonfish would not exhibit anti-predator behaviors in response to lionfish. The results of this study were inconclusive due to the absence of a positive control, but they indicate that ocean surgeonfish do not exhibit an anti-predator response to lionfish. If this study were to be successfully repeated with a positive control, the results may help to enhance our understanding of the ecological effects lionfish are having on the coral-reef ecosystem and will help us to mitigate those effects.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XV (Spring 2014)19: 21-29 from CIEE Bonaire.

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