Invasive lionfish obesity in Bonaire

Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois spp.) have spread to and established sufficient numbers throughout the Caribbean. They are extreme generalists that feed on ecologically and economically important species, they can reduce recruitment of native fishes by up to 79%, and can occur in densities in orders of magnitude greater than in their home range. Because prey do not recognize lionfish as predators (prey naiveté), lionfish prey on fish and invertebrates using little energy. The purpose of this study was to test if lionfish in Bonaire were obese and if obesity was more pronounced in males over females. Because of limited research on invasive species obesity, the presence of interstitial fat and fat in the liver was used to determine if a lionfish was obese or not. A total of 161 lionfish for interstitial fat and 74 lionfish for liver fat were analyzed. All males in this study were obese (they all had both interstitial and liver fat) however, not all females had interstitial and liver fat. Females also possessed interstitial and liver fat in lesser quantities than males probably because of allocation of energy towards reproduction. This study highlights the importance of studying obesity on invasive species, an open topic in marine science that has not been addressed thoroughly.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XIV (Fall 2013)19: 89-95 from CIEE Bonaire.

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