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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 638:123-135 (2020)  -  DOI:

Behavioural traits and feeding ecology of Mediterranean lionfish and naiveté of native species to lionfish predation

Daniele D’Agostino1,*, Carlos Jimenez2, Tom Reader1, Louis Hadjioannou2, Stephanie Heyworth3, Marilena Aplikioti4, Marina Argyrou4, David A. Feary3

1School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK
2Enalia Physis Environmental Research Centre, Acropoleos 2, Aglantzia 2101, Nicosia, Cyprus
3MRAG Ltd, 18 Queen Street, London, W1J 5PN, UK
4Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, 1416 Nicosia, Cyprus
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The detrimental effects of invasion by Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans/miles on western Atlantic fishes have spurred concerns for Mediterranean fish biodiversity, where Lessepsian lionfish P. miles have recently established populations in the eastern basin. In order to assess the potential impact on biodiversity, we examined key behavioural and ecological traits of lionfish and the resident fish community in the Mediterranean that may contribute to lionfish invasion success. We focussed on Cyprus, where lionfish were first sighted in 2012 and have now formed abundant and stable populations. Using field observations, we examined lionfish predatory behaviour and feeding ecology, and naiveté of resident fish species to hunting lionfish. Our findings suggest that lionfish in the Mediterranean are crepuscular generalist predators, with targeted prey dominated by small-bodied benthic or bentho-pelagic associated species. Such prey are more likely to be native than introduced (Lessepsian) fishes, with native prey fishes showing greater naiveté towards lionfish than Lessepsian prey species. Notably, one of the Mediterranean’s key ecological fish species (the native damselfish Chromis chromis) showed the highest level of naiveté and was the most heavily targeted prey. Overall, lionfish in the Mediterranean show similar predatory behaviour and ecology to their western Atlantic counterparts. Although the establishment of Mediterranean lionfish populations is still recent, it may result in a similar disruption to reef fish biomass to that recorded in the Atlantic, with impacts on the structure and biodiversity of reef fish communities and the services they provide.

KEY WORDS: Alien species · Lessepsian invasion · Predation · Trophic plasticity · Levantine Sea · Invasion ecology

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Cite this article as: D’Agostino D, Jimenez C, Reader T, Hadjioannou L and others (2020) Behavioural traits and feeding ecology of Mediterranean lionfish and naiveté of native species to lionfish predation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 638:123-135.

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