Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lythrum & Lionfish - Invasive Beauties

This web log notes invasive species issues and tries to highlight invasive species challenges, but as Jenn over at the Invasive Species Weblog indirectly noticed, there is little in the way of aquatic invasive discussion. This is mostly an ‘out of sight out of mind’ phenomenon which plagues invasive species over all. Most of urbanized America rarely interacts with invasive species except when dealing with the picnic wasps and hornets, but that will be another posting someday.

picture of Lythrum from: may be subject to copyright.
picture of lionfish from: Image may be subject to copyright.

Invasive species can be problematic beauties as gardeners know. Lythrum spp, known as purple loosestrife, is a poster child in North America for beauty hiding trouble and an “(a)nother example of a well-studied aquatic invader … a plant now common in wetlands throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was brought to North America from Europe in the 1800s - both accidentally and on purpose. Because it has no natural predators in North America, purple loosestrife is able to rapidly invade wetlands. Once established, purple loosestrife out competes and displaces many native species such as cattails. Because animals depend on native plants for food, nesting areas, and shelter, purple loosestrife invasions indirectly harm wildlife. Muskrats, bog turtles, and ducks are some of the species that suffer when purple loosestrife takes over.”[1]

In the oceans the same challenge occurs when human aesthetic meets natural beauty. Pterois volitans (Linnaeus), also known as: lionfish, lion fish, zebrafish, firefish, turkeyfish, red lionfish, butterfly cod, ornate butterfly-cod, peacock lionfish, red firefish, scorpion volitans Information about the potential for ecosystem damage is sparse at this point, but exclusion and now eradication is most likely out of the question, in the oceans where even control is seemingly beyond our resource and ability capacities. Lionfish, originating in the far east are “(v)oracious predators (which) eat native fish and crustaceans in large quantities. (Juvenile Nassau grouper have been found in lionfish stomachs in the Bahamas). This aquarium beauty is not “…known to have any native predators (and is) (c)apable of reproducing year-round with unique reproduction mechanisms not commonly found in native fishes. On top of all this, the lionfish is fairly”… resistant to parasites, giving them another advantage over native species, (as well as) (f)ast in their growth, able to outgrow native species with whom they compete for food and space.”[2]

Information about the potential for immediate human harm is clear and present. The fish stings and the pain is intense, there is no anti-venom and the pain can last for up to 20 minutes.[3] This kind of interaction tends to get notices, as the sting creates a burning sensation like fire on and in the skin. Terrestrial plants like Lythrum spp. are also a kind of fire burning the eco-system but on a slower time-scale allowing us to sit back and watch the beauty as it consumes the landscape and we observe oblivious to pain.

In keeping with out theme, as Lythrum spp. can be found in garden centers so lionfish can be found in pet stores where it “… is considered the ultimate lionfish by most marine aquarists, and other members of this genus, such as the Antennata and Radiata, lionfish are frequently found at local fish stores.”[4] Where we go from here, I leave up to you.

Bahamian Government’s Lionfish Sighting Survey/Reporting.
From Larry’s Blog Entries: “An invasive species is a non-native species that reproduces and establishes a population in its new ecosystem. Invasive species affect every part of the world resulting in loss of native species and biological diversity. The venomous lionfish, a native of the Indo-Pacific Region, has recently invaded the Bahamian archipelago. In an effort to establish an invasion management program and policy development, The Department of Marine Resources in collaboration with the College of The Bahamas Marine and Environmental Studies Institute (COB-MESI) has launched an online Lionfish Sighting Survey. This survey is in conjunction with a long-term National Lionfish Response Project that will allow ecological research to determine what affects the lionfish invasion has on our marine resources. Please click on the lionfish below to report lionfish sightings throughout the Bahamas.”
Report a Lionfish Sighting:


[1] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration U.S. Department of Commerce USA.gov
[2] © REEF 2007 Terms of use Site design by Ben Weintraub.
[4] Reefkeeping Magazine™ Reef Central, LLC-Copyright © 2008

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