Friday, 24 April 2015

Invasive lionfish may have had multiple points-of-origin in Caribbean

April 24, 2015

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

An invasive predatory fish that has been rapidly expanding its presence in the Caribbean Basin and the Western Atlantic originated from multiple locations, not just one as previously believed, according to research published in a recent edition of the journal Marine Biology.

The venomous, coral reef-dwelling red lionfish had long been thought to have been introduced in Florida. In the new study, however, a team of US Geological Survey scientists propose that there were multiple points of origin, including some further south in the Caribbean Basin range.

Two genetically distinct populations discovered

Using new genetic data to help unravel the mystery, the study authors collected lionfish samples from 14 countries and territories in the Greater Caribbean and Western Atlantic. They discovered unique regional patterns that separated the area into distinct northern and southern regions.

The split occurred in the vicinity of the Bahamas, and given the regional genetic differences they found in the course of their investigation, the study authors now believe that there were multiple introductions of the species. One rare genetic strain was detected in only a few southern samples, but was found to be pervasive in the northern ones, the researchers explained.

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