Lionfish: Terror of the Coral Reefs, Part 1

Have you ever seen an alien invasion? If you look closely underwater, you will. The venomous lionfish are taking over Atlantic coral reefs, out-competing native organisms for food and space. Watch to learn more about research being performed about these invasive fish. Stay tuned next week to learn about what the lionfish are eating in the reefs. Learn more about lionfish.


Have you ever wondered what an alien invasion looks like underwater?

These spiny creatures are lionfish, and they're taking over the Atlantic.

The lionfish invasion may pose one of the greatest ever man made threats to Atlantic coral reefs. After being first released from aquariums in the 1980s, lionfish have aggressively invaded habitats in the South East United States, The Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Right now the best we have of dealing with the lionfish problem is killing them by spearfishing. It's easy and effective but only in fairly shallow water and only in areas frequented by divers. Hollings Scholar Emily Wallingford spent this summer working with lionfish expert Dr. James Morris. They were searching for ways to make lionfish easier to catch without having to rely on the continual effort of divers.

I've been doing tank experiments this summer, testing to see if lionfish have a preference between horizontal and vertical structures.

What we're going to try and do here is learn more about lionfish behavior and their affinity and attraction for these types of structures and exploit that using these devices that will hopefully allow us to aggregate lionfish and increase efficiency for spearfishers.

Here is the horizontal structure that we've been using in the tanks. And then the vertical structure is in the tree shape over there.

What I do is set up individual and group experiments with these two devices to see if the fish spend more time on the horizontal structure versus the vertical structure.

We still have quite a bit to learn about lionfish. These ruthless invaders are changing the aquatic landscape throughout Atlantic marine environments.

Emily's research with aid scientists in the greater fight against lionfish.

It's one battle in a larger war.

Stay tuned next week to learn more about what we are finding in the stomachs of these monsters.