MEPS 558:223-234 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11924

Invasive lionfish Pterois volitans reduce the density but not the genetic diversity of a native reef fish

Grayce Palmer1, J. Derek Hogan1,*, Blair D. Sterba-Boatwright2, R. Deborah Overath

1Department of Life Sciences, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas 78412-5892, USA
2Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas 78412, USA
3Department of Natural Sciences, Del Mar College, 101 Baldwin Blvd., Corpus Christi, Texas 78404, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Indo-Pacific red lionfish Pterois volitans has spread throughout the western Atlantic causing declines in biomass and diversity of native species at local reefs; worst-case scenarios predict species extinctions and ecosystem phase shifts. While reductions in reef fish population density and recruitment are evident, it is not known whether lionfish are reducing genetic diversity of native species, a major driver of extinction in natural populations. A before-after control-impact experiment was used to determine whether lionfish removals cause an increase in density of native species and genetic diversity in one species, the bicolor damselfish Stegastes partitus. We found that removing lionfish significantly augmented the density of several reef fish species. However, while allelic frequencies in bicolor damselfish recruits changed after removals, genetic diversity did not increase substantially despite a 3-fold increase in recruit density. Responses to lionfish removal differed among native species; rare species with small population sizes may be more susceptible to recruitment failure and diversity loss as a result of lionfish predation than widespread species with large populations.


KEY WORDS: Lionfish · Invasive predator effects · Genetic diversity · Native prey · Targeted removals


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Cite this article as: Palmer G, Hogan JD, Sterba-Boatwright BD, Overath RD (2016) Invasive lionfish Pterois volitans reduce the density but not the genetic diversity of a native reef fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 558:223-234. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11924

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