MEPS 472:249-256 (2013)  -  doi:10.3354/meps09992

Diet richness of invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish revealed by DNA barcoding

Isabelle M. Côté1,2,*, Stephanie J. Green1, James A. Morris Jr.3, John L. Akins4, Dirk Steinke5

1Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada
2Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Göteborg, Box 463, 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden
3National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science,
101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
4Reef Environmental Education Foundation, 98300 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, Florida 33037, USA
5Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada

ABSTRACT: Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois spp. have recently invaded marine habitats throughout the western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. Their unusual hunting behaviour suggests that they could prey on most fish species within their gape size limits. However, few prey species have been identified so far due to the challenges of identifying partly digested prey. Moreover, it is not clear how well the identifiable diet reflects the unidentified portion. To address these issues, we DNA-barcoded unidentifiable fish items from the stomachs of 130 lionfish captured on Bahamian coral reefs. We identified 37 fish prey species, nearly half of which had not previously been recorded in this region. The total richness of lionfish prey fish recorded so far may represent up to ~54% of potential prey species on the study reefs. The relative importance of prey species in the visually identifiable diet portion, which was limited to 25% of prey items, differed from that in the ‘unidentifiable’ portion, which was largely resolved here with barcoding, weakening extrapolations from visual identification. The high diet resolution afforded by barcoding can increase our ability to predict the impacts of invasive predators on recipient communities.

KEY WORDS: Barcoding · Diet composition · Lionfish · Invasion biology · Predator−prey interactions · Stomach content analysis

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Cite this article as: Côté IM, Green SJ, Morris JA Jr, Akins JL, Steinke D (2013) Diet richness of invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish revealed by DNA barcoding. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 472:249-256

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