Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Voracious and Invasive Lionfish Is Taking Over the Atlantic. Here's Why.

This is one hungry fish.

One of the most notorious invasive species around, the lionfish, is known for its voracious appetite and can literally eat its competitors out of an ecosystem. And that's what the striking fish is doing, feasting its way through waters that stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to the Eastern Seaboard.

Now, scientists and startups are crafting methods for capturing and killing the hungry invaders. But while these new ideas show promise, tried-and-true spearfishing seems to be the most effective way to eradicate lionfish, scientists told Live Science.

"It's actually hard to describe how a lionfish eats because they do it in a split second," said Kristen Dahl, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida. Lionfish use a complex series of tactics that no other fish in the world is known to employ. In the blink of an eye, 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, scientists reported in a study published in 2012 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. The attacks happen so quickly that nearby fish don't seem to notice.

"It's actually nice when I'm looking at gut contents," Dahl said, "because if something has been freshly eaten, it's in immaculate condition."

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