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Head on view of a Red lionfish
Pterois antennata in Schönbrunn Zoo, Vienna, Austria
Antennata Lionfish, Peleliu, Palau

A Lionfish is any of several species of venomous marine fish in the genera Pterois, Parapterois, Brachypterois, Ebosia or Dendrochirus, of the family Scorpaenidae. The lionfish is also known as the Turkey Fish, Scorpion or Fire Fish.[1] They are notable for their extremely long and separated spines, and have a generally striped appearance, red, green, navy green, brown, orange, yellow, black, maroon, or white.

Contents

Native environment

The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific oceanic region. This range extends from western Australia and Malaysia east to French Polynesia and the Pitcairn Islands. In addition, the range also extends north to southern Japan and southern Korea and south to parts of coastal Australia.[2] Although the lionfish is not native to all regions in the world, these fish continue to spread throughout many parts of the world.[3] Due to a recent introduction, the lionfish has been spotted in the warmer coral regions of the eastern Atlantic Ocean around the Azores and extending into the Mediterranean Sea, and also in the Caribbean Sea and in the Red Sea .[4] It has been speculated that this introduction may well have been caused when Hurricane Andrew destroyed an aquarium in southern Florida.[5] DNA from captured lionfish in this region shows that they all originated from the same six or seven fish.[6] The lion fish has a low breeding system.

Size

There are many types of lionfish that vary in size. The common lionfish generally reaches a size of 30 cm to 35 cm (12 inches), while smaller lionfish, like the Fuzzy Dwarf, are typically the size of a tennis ball, not including fins. In the Caribbean where lionfish aren't native, they grow to a size of up to 55 cm.

Warnings

"Catching a lion fish" - illustration in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle.

The NOAA encourages everyone (divers and fishers) to be extremely cautious and avoid contact with the venomous spikes of the lionfish. Usually, lionfish are not aggressive toward humans and will almost always keep their distance when given the opportunity, so they pose a relatively low risk. In addition, their stings are not deadly, but they are very painful.[7]

Venom

The lionfish is one of the most venomous fish on the ocean floor. Lionfish have venomous dorsal spines that are used purely for defense. When threatened, the fish often faces its attacker in an upside down posture which brings its spines to bear. However, a lionfish's sting is usually not fatal to humans. If a human is envenomed, that person will experience extreme pain, and possibly headaches, vomiting, and breathing difficulties. A common treatment is soaking the afflicted area in hot water, as very few hospitals carry specific treatments.[8][9][10] However, immediate emergency medical treatment is still advised, as some people are more susceptible to the venom than others.

Feeding

Lionfish are voracious predators. They do not use their spines to capture prey; only for protection. When hunting, they corner prey using their large fins and then use their quick reflexes to swallow the prey whole. They hunt primarily from late afternoon to dawn. In captivity, lionfish can be trained to eat frozen krill and mysis.

Predators

The lionfish have very few natural predators, but the grouper and other fish have been found with lionfish remains in their stomachs.

References

  1. ^ Mike McEwan, "A Fierce Predator: ☺When the Lionfish shows its aggressive looks, its no bluff", Aquaria Central
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Whitfield, P; Gardner, T; Vives, SP; Gilligan, MR; Courtney Jr, WR; Ray, GC; Hare, JA (2003). "The Introduction and Dispersal of the Indo-Pacific Lionfish (Pterois volitans) Along the Atlantic Coast of North America". In: SF Norton (ed). Diving for Scienceyea right...2003. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (22nd Annual Scientific Diving Symposium). http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/4766. Retrieved 2008-Go to www.freewebs.com/zevbans for more info. 
  5. ^ "Lionfish devastate Florida's native shoals". The Times. October 20, 2008. http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/stories/lionfish/lion02_invade.html. Retrieved 2009-07-12. ; "Lionfish Invade U.S. Waters". NOAA. March 25, 2008. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article4974396.ece. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  6. ^ A-Z animals
  7. ^ "Have You Seen Me?" National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science"
  8. ^ Aldred B, Erickson T, Lipscomb J (November 1996). "Lionfish envenomations in an urban wilderness". Wilderness Environ Med 7 (4): 291–6. PMID 11990126. 
  9. ^ Taylor, G. (2000). "Toxic fish spine injury: Lessons from 11 years experience". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society journal 30 (1). ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/5828. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  10. ^ Vetrano SJ, Lebowitz JB, Marcus S (November 2002). "Lionfish envenomation". J Emerg Med 23 (4): 379–82. doi:10.1016/S0736-4679(02)00572-3. PMID 12480019. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0736467902005723. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 

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