The Atlantic Is Facing a Prickly Problem: The Lionfish

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The Atlantic Is Facing a Prickly Problem: The Lionfish


Best known as a majestic predator with eye-catching, Zebra-like patterns covering its entire body, venomous dorsal spines, and supraorbital tentacles, the Lionfish is a resplendent, if deadly, saltwater fish. 

Its toxin is so spread out around its body that it has venom on almost all its spines, as Ocean Service describes its venom to be a “combination of protein, a neuromuscular toxin, and a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.” This deadly concoction of chemicals is what makes the lionfish such a horrific creature, even despite its flamboyant appearance. 


Photo Credit: Shutterstock


And now the waters of the Atlantic are having a problem with them. 

LiveScience, a website offering groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, reports that the Atlantic is having a bit of a problem with the booming population of this invasive species. 


Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Postdoctoral researcher Kristen Dahl, a researcher at the University of Florida, states that one of the reasons it has been difficult for researchers to curtail the lionfish population is the fish’s eating habits. While other fishes are relatively easy to capture and contain by observing their feeding habits, the lionfish serves more of a challenge. 

Dahl explains that this is because the lionfish eats at an astonishingly fast speed with nearly no lag time between what is seemingly their “idle” state and their “feeding” state. LiveScience’s report reads, “a lionfish goes from silently hovering above its prey to flaring its fins, firing a disorienting jet of water from its mouth, unhinging its jaw and swallowing its meal whole.” This particular kind of feeding also means that the other fishes around them barely notice that it is happening, so they have no idea to avoid this spindly predator.  


Photo Credit: Shutterstock


But why are they even spreading much too fast in the Atlantic anyway? Reports suggest that the population has been observed to be growing off the coast of North Carolina since 2000, and since then, have reached coastal areas along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. 

Research fishery biologist Pam Schofield says that there are even areas in the Eastern Seaboard where lionfishes can be spotted “as far north as Massachusetts.” 




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