Lionfish: Terror of the Coral Reefs, Part 2
Rare footage: Grouper eating a lionfish! Lionfish typically have no known natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean. Watch as scientists try to determine what they eat, to see how lionfish eating habits may impact the ecosystem. Next week, tune in to watch the third installment of the lionfish series.
It could be a bad day for this lionfish, but it's a hopeful sign for Atlantic coral reefs.
This is rare footage of a grouper eating a lionfish, and it's not a common occurrence in the Atlantic.
Lionfish have no known natural predators, one of the biggest reasons for their success.
And lionfish will eat just about anything that swims in front of them—up to half of their own body size! Hollings Scholar John Peake worked this summer with Dr. James Morris, dissecting lionfish stomachs to see what they are eating. Are they picky eaters or gluttons? And how will that affect their impact on native fish and their ecosystems?
What I've been doing is dissecting lionfish stomachs and looking at what they've been eating, trying to identify potential ecological, economic impacts of the lionfish invasion.
Lionfish do have a negative impact. In parts of the Bahamas, 40% of the biomass on some reefs is lionfish. And the native species that normally reside on these reefs have been reduced by 65%.
At least in these samples, there are a lot of parrotfish, which is really interesting fact for the environment because parrotfish are a key species in reducing algae growth on coral reefs.
The fact that lionfish are eating a lot of parrotfish means that they're having a harmful effect on the ecosystem. Over time, we may begin to see more of groupers and other large fish eating these invaders. Nature may solve this problem on its own.
Or, the solution could come from something we haven't even considered.
Next week, we will examine whether the lionfish we see in the Atlantic are really some kind of super fish.