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  • Tiana Muthanna

Touch-Me-Not The Lionfish Story

Lionfish are beautiful and interesting creatures. They have unique features and habits. In this article, you will learn all about them. From their habitat, looks, survival tactics, and how they impact the environment right now.

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific region. This is a vague ocean area that spans the Indian Ocean, the east coast of Africa, and some of the Pacific Ocean. They usually prefer warm, tropical saltwater environments. They do not usually live more than 500 feet deep. While their habitat is usually tropical coral reefs, in which they like to stay in the deep crevices, some even live around rocky coastlines. The pH level (how acidic or basic the water is) of their environment should be between 8.1 and 8.4. This is around the same pH level as commonly known baking soda.

Beautiful, unique, and colourful. Words I would use to describe a lionfish. Yes, most lionfish have red, brown, or black stripes all over their bodies. They have light skin and flag-like spines jutting out of most of their fins. They also have tiny fibres hanging from their chin and eyebrows. Lionfish, like any fish, have dorsal, pelvic, anal, and tail fins. Also, their pectoral fins (fins that are located on the sides of fish just behind their heads) are almost wing-shaped. I guess that's why they are called lionfish, turkey fish, firefish, etc. They have a mane of spines that resembles a lion, turkey, or fire. There are approximately 16 different types of lionfish. They fall under two categories; Pertrois and Dendrochirus . Petrois means feather or wing, so these lionfish have feather-like wings, and Dendrochirus means tree-like markings, so these lionfish have thick or bright markings. Not only do these features of lionfish make them more striking and memorable, but they also each have uses of their own.

Their unique features come into play here. when they need to catch prey or run away from predators. Let's talk about offence first. I know this is not a term normally used to describe animal behaviour, but I think this is a term that helps me understand it. So, how do lionfish catch prey? First of all, they are nocturnal hunters. This means, they only hunt at night. They consume the young of bigger species. Also, sometimes lionfish eat some smaller members of their own species. They catch these animals by cornering them and swallowing them whole. The fibres or tassels I talked about? They are used to lure other species in and then swallow them. Their lines break the outline of their bodies up, so from far away they camouflage into the background. This is how they sneak up on their prey.

Now, some people say that lionfish are top predators and that they don't have any predators. But, some others disagree. Some animals that are predators of lionfish are scorpionfish, frogfish, and eels. Now let's talk about their defensive tactics. Those spines on their fins aren't useless. Even though they move very slowly, their spines contain deadly venom that is very dangerous to some animals. such as humans. Their bright colours, along with their large spines, also ward off predators. Lionfish also reproduce like crazy. They are not likely to go extinct any time soon.

As you know, Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific region. However, they are now spreading across the Atlantic. They are now an invasive species. An invasive species is an animal that is not native to a location it has now populated. This causes harm and problems for the environment and the fish in it. So, in the situation of lionfish, they are not native to the Atlantic waters and therefore do not have a lot of predators. Another recent invasion was recorded in the Mediterranean Sea. Two P.miles lionfish were recorded in 2012, and now they have expanded exponentially and invaded the area. How did they get into these waters? It is speculated that aquariums just discard the unwanted lionfish into the ocean. These aquariums probably bought the lionfish from the Indo-Pacific region to look pretty or cool in their aquariums without thinking twice about the work they would have to do. The Lionfish also multiply very, very quickly. This adds to the issue. They are not at risk of going extinct, but they cause problems for the fish around them. Invasive species are also known to cope with climate change very well. If there are more lionfish, then they need more nutrients. And they will eat the native fish. This puts the entire ecosystem off balance. Is there a solution to this? Not really. But people are encouraged to hunt and eat lionfish during cookouts. Some places even have competitions to see who can catch the most lionfish. Another thing we could do is spread awareness on proper lionfish care and trading.

To sum it all up, I think lionfish are some of the most interesting creatures that I know about. They are so unusual and pretty but deadly. I learned a whole lot about lionfish and their invasions. I think we understand that they are very harmful to the environment they have invaded but the people who deserve the blame are the people who discard the lionfish into non-native waters. Lionfish are not trying to harm the environment, they are just trying to consume enough nutrition to survive. There is still so much of the ocean we haven't explored and so much more to learn.



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