Lionfish Behavior at Home (compared to; as a greedy guest)
Extensive molecular genetic analysis has been done throughout our planet’s oceans in order to depict the origin of the invasive Pterois volitans. Due to their large scale of lionfish trade as aquarium fish, it turns out that Indonesia is the direct link home.
There is no significant difference between the lionfish found in Southeast U.S. and the various areas in the Caribbean even though Indonesian lionfish have been subject to quite some levels of genetic variation over the years due to the various species which coexist on the reefs. It is therefor expected that either one stock of lionfish was released in several locations, or one escaping-lionfish was able to populate throughout the various invaded habitats.
An LET Diver has been making some dives on the beautiful Indonesian reefs and noticed some interesting differences between the lionfish on their the reefs they invaded compared to their natural habitat.
Unlike in the Caribbean where lionfish are often found on man-made reefs such as ship wrecks and waste piles, lionfish in similar areas in Indonesia are no where to be found. One of the main reasons for that is that adult lionfish have actual predators there.
Large reef fish such as grouper, snapper, morays, and sometimes even sharks prey on lionfish despite their sharp venomous spines, and the area is full of these predators! In addition to large predators preying on large lionfish, Indonesian waters also have many more invertebrates and small reef fish that not only are prey to large lionfish but are predators to the juvenile lionfish. Mantis shrimp, wrasses, pipefish, and many other smaller fish feed on both the lionfish young and larvae keeping the population down before they even get a chance to grow up.
The issues on the invaded reefs is that these small creatures that could well be lionfish predators are not aware of the lionfish yet and the larger predators are no longer present on our reefs!
Indonesia is filled with large reef fish such as the potato grouper of which you can see several of over a meter in length in a single dive, it would be nice to have them back on our reefs to help us clean up after ourselves…
In addition to the Pterois volitans there are many forms of lionfish on the Indonesian reefs such as the Pterois miles and the Pterois Antennata. Although they have similar characteristics and ties they do not populate as a whole but instead strive as a species individually and keep each other in balance unlike the invaded reefs where the red lionfish or Pterois volitans has free reign to eat and populate as it pleases.
Until of course one of you knowledgable divers comes along and enjoys it for dinner!