MEPS 235:289-297 (2002) - doi:10.3354/meps235289
Biological invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans along the Atlantic coast of North America
Paula E. Whitfield1,*, Todd Gardner2, Stephen P. Vives3, Matthew R. Gilligan4, Walter R. Courtenay Jr.5, G. Carleton Ray6, Jonathan A. Hare1
ABSTRACT: The occurrence of lionfish Pterois volitans is reported from the western Atlantic Ocean. Adults were collected off the coasts of North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and juveniles were collected along the shore of Long Island, New York. They have also been found around Bermuda. Lionfish are indigenous to tropical waters of the western Pacific and their occurrence along the east coast of the United States represents a human-induced introduction. Distribution of adults suggests lionfish are surviving in the western Atlantic and capture of juveniles provides putative evidence of reproduction. The most likely pathway of introduction is aquarium releases, but introduction via ballast water cannot be ruled out. The ecosystem of the southeastern United States continental shelf is already undergoing change: reef fish communities are becoming more tropical and many fish species are overfished. These ongoing changes, along with limited information regarding the biology of P. volitans, make predictions of long-term effects of the introduction difficult. This discovery represents the first, apparently successful introduction, of a marine fish from the western Pacific to Atlantic coastal waters of the United States.
KEY WORDS: Biological invasions · Nonindigenous species · Marine fish · Scorpaenidae · Marine introductions · Lionfish · Pterois volitans · Invasive species · Pteroinae
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