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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 485:1-7 (2013)  -  DOI:

Perspectives for the lionfish invasion in the South Atlantic: Are Brazilian reefs protected by the currents?

Osmar J. Luiz1,*, Sergio R. Floeter2, Luiz A. Rocha3, Carlos E. L. Ferreira

1Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia
2Departamento de Ecologia e Zoologia, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina 88040-900, Brazil
3Section of Ichthyology, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California 94118, USA
4Departamento de Biologia Marinha, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro 24001-970, Brazil

ABSTRACT: The Indo-Pacific lionfish species Pterois volitans and P. miles are piscivorous predators that were introduced probably via aquarium release to the northwestern Atlantic approximately 15 yr ago and rapidly spread and established through the Greater Caribbean. Possible ecological impacts of this invasion on native species are a legitimate cause for concern. Despite predictions that lionfishes will extend their range throughout most of the eastern coast of South America, they are yet to be recorded in Brazil. We present a perspective analysis of the lionfish invasion in the southwestern Atlantic by investigating patterns of fish species movement across the Amazon-Orinoco plume (AOP), a large freshwater and sediment runoff between the Caribbean and the Brazilian Provinces that represents a ‘porous’ barrier to dispersal for reef organisms. We analyzed records of species that have recently crossed the barrier and found that the Brazilian Province contributes a significantly higher proportion of its endemic fauna to the pool of crossers, indicating that movements of vagrant species across the AOP are more common from Brazil towards the Caribbean than vice versa. Nevertheless, despite infrequent migration southwards against the currents, our analysis indicates that such migration has occurred historically and has resulted in the establishment of new populations. Our analysis indicates that a combination of the effects of the AOP and prevailing currents along northern Brazil may slow the pace of the potential invasion, which could help eradication programs if action is taken before lionfishes become widespread and established in Brazil.

KEY WORDS: Amazon-Orinoco barrier · Exotic species · Reef fish · North Brazil Current · Vagrant · Pterois

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Cite this article as: Luiz OJ, Floeter SR, Rocha LA, Ferreira CEL (2013) Perspectives for the lionfish invasion in the South Atlantic: Are Brazilian reefs protected by the currents? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 485:1-7.

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