Turkey Fish aka Lionfish

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It’s that time of year again: time to give thanks, to eat extra, and to think deeply about that enigmatic holiday species: the turkeyfish.

Viewed from the right angle, the ornate fins of the lionfish resemble turkey plumage. That’s why ‘turkeyfish’ is one of the many imaginative names people use when referring to the lionfish. Depending on where you live, you may also hear the lionfish called a devil fish, red lionfish, scorpion-cod, zebrafish, ornate butterfly-cod, featherfins, butterfly cod, Indian turkeyfish, soldier lionfish, or poison scorpion!

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but are now established along the southeast coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and in parts of the Gulf of Mexico. , Since lionfish are not native to Atlantic waters, they have very few predators. They are carnivores that feed on small crustaceans and fish, including the young of important commercial fish species such as snapper and grouper.

How lionfish will affect native fish populations and commercial fishing industries has yet to be determined. What is known is that non-native species can dramatically affect native ecosystems and local fishing economies.

There are 12 different species of lionfish that are native to the Pacific Ocean. Lionfish appeared recently on the eastern coast of the United States after they managed to escape from the private aquariums. Lionfish in North America are regarded as invasive animals because they do not have natural enemies and they easily eliminate native species when competing for space and food. Lionfish live near the coral reefs and in the rock crevices. These fish are highly adaptable, they have high reproduction rate and their number in the wild is large and stable. Lionfish is not on the list of endangered species.

Pterios volitans (Red lionfish) and Pterios miles (Devil firefish or Common lionfish) are a recent and significant invasive species in the west Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and Mediterranean Sea.

Pterois volitans or common lionfish
Pterois volitans or common lionfish
Pterois miles, the devil firefish or common lionfish
Pterois miles, the devil firefish or common lionfish

Interesting Lionfish Facts:

Size of lionfish depends on the species. Smallest species are only 2 inches long, while largest can reach 16 inches in length. On average, lionfish have 1 to 2 pounds in weight and can reach 13 inches in length.

Lionfish have 18 venomous spines total: 2 pelvic spines, 3 anal spines, and 13 dorsal spines

Lionfish are famous by their beautifully colored bodies, covered with red, white, orange, black or brown stripes (it depends on the species). Stripes are arranged in zebra-like pattern.

Lionfish have feathery pectoral fins that are used to attract smaller prey. On the other hand, same features keep the predators on the safe distance.
Lionfish has more than thirteen (up to 18) venomous spines on the back side of the body. Venom is used only for self-defense (lionfish does not hunt using these spikes).

People will experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, breathing difficulties and pain after the close encounter with lionfish’s venom. Fatalities have not been recorded. Despite their venom, lionfish are consumed as delicacy in certain countries.

Large mouth of lionfish allows swallowing of the prey in a single bite.

Lionfish is a carnivore (meat-eater). It eats various types of fish and crustaceans.
When the food sources are scarce, lionfish will attack and eat members of its own species. This phenomenon is called cannibalism.

Lionfish often hunts as an ambush predator (using the factor of surprise).

Lionfish is diurnal animal (active during the day).

Main predators of lionfish are eels, large fish and humans. Lionfish are often collected and sold as pets due to their unusual look.

Lionfish are solitary creatures that occupy and defend their territories. Sometimes they form smaller groups composed of one male and few females.

Lionfish reproduce at incredible high rate. Female can release 30 000 eggs every 7 days. Because of that, lionfish easily occupy new habitats and outnumber native species.

Fertilized eggs hatch after 2 days. Babies, called fry, will swim near the surface of the water until they reach the length of at least 1 inch.

Lionfish can survive from 5 to 15 years in the wild.

 

Source: softschools.com, lionfish.com, en.wikipedia.org

RELATED ARTICLES:

Eating Lionfish : Eating non-native lionfish is good for the environment. Yes, people do eat lionfish and they are delicious! … and eating lionfish is great for several reasons:

What you need to know about Lionfish : 

Tt’s been over twenty years since we first started hearing alarming reports of lionfish being seen in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Originally from the Indo-Pacific it is not certain how they invaded the Atlantic, but once in waters where they have no natural predators, the lionfish population exploded and quickly became the most destructive invasive species in history.

Helping Save the Belize Barrier Reef  https://scubadivingresource.com/helping-save-the-belize-barrier-reef/

To help keep the population under control, divers all over Belize and the Caribbean use spear guns to hunt these spiny, venomous fish. It takes skill, especially when removing the lionfish from the spear so that you don’t get stung by one of their spines! But it’s worth it because not only are you removing an invasive predator from the reef, but the delicate white fish is delicious to eat as well.

The team at St. George’s Caye Resort in Belize cares deeply about protecting the reef and the underwater world. 

One of its biggest threats to the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, is the invasive species lionfish.

What’s for Dinner? Lionfish : Although I am constantly being reminded to not eat seafood, now there is light at the end of the speargun. I can enjoy my guilty pleasure and also do a positive thing for marine conservation. Eat Lionfish!!!

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Scuba Diving Resource makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. Please note that regulations and information can change at any time.

November 8, 2018 |

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