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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 558:267-279 (2016)  -  DOI:

Native grouper indirectly ameliorates the negative effects of invasive lionfish

Robert D. Ellis1,3,*, Meaghan E. Faletti2

1Florida State University, Department of Biological Science, Tallahassee, Florida 32306, USA
2Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Marine Fisheries Management, 2950 Executive Center Circle East, Tallahassee, Florida 32301, USA
3Present address: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 8th Ave. SE, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Non-trophic interactions between Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans and P. miles and Atlantic and Caribbean reef fishes are not yet well understood. To determine the effects of potential competitive and behavioral interactions between native predators and invasive lionfish, we experimentally altered the presence of lionfish and red grouper Epinephelus morio in karst solution holes in Florida Bay, USA, and then tracked subsequent changes in the juvenile reef fish and motile macroinvertebrate communities for 6 wk. Relative to solution holes where we excluded both predators, mean juvenile reef fish abundance declined 83.7% in solution holes with a lionfish but increased by 154% in solution holes with a red grouper. There was no difference in juvenile reef fish abundance in solution holes with both lionfish and red grouper compared to holes where we excluded both predators. The composition of lionfish stomach contents shifted from mostly teleost fishes when lionfish were present in solution holes alone, to mostly crustaceans when in the presence of a red grouper. Concurrently, the abundance of 2 species of cleaner shrimp (Ancylomenes pedersoni and Periclimenes yucatanicus) decreased by 14.7% when lionfish were present but increased by 56.2% at holes where lionfish were excluded. We suggest that these results are due to altered lionfish predatory behavior in the presence of red grouper and highlight the importance of maintaining intact native predator communities for ameliorating the negative effects of the lionfish invasion.

KEY WORDS: Lionfish · Red grouper · Interspecific interactions · Community ecology · Reef fish · Invasive species · Ecological impacts

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Cite this article as: Ellis RD, Faletti ME (2016) Native grouper indirectly ameliorates the negative effects of invasive lionfish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 558:267-279.

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