Study reveals new information on lionfish diet
A new study has examined the diet of the invasive lionfish across the Atlantic.
Bermudian researcher Corey Eddy, one of the authors of the article, said the research examined what the species had eaten in order to help determine their impact on the environment.
Dr Eddy said: “The results reinforce our understanding that lionfish are opportunistic generalist carnivores, meaning they eat everything they encounter that fits in their mouths.
“In an odd way, that is good news, because generalist predators are less likely to cause the local extinction of any one species since they feed more often on the most abundant.
“However, that is not to say that lionfish don’t exert considerable pressure on already vulnerable populations.”
Lionfish are native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but were introduced to the Atlantic in the 1990s.
The species has since spread throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic — the first lionfish was caught in Bermuda in 2000.
Dr Eddy said the study was the first to compare what lionfish were eating in different parts of the Atlantic.
Researchers looked at the stomach contents of 8,125 lionfish from ten locations.
Inside the stomachs, they found the remains of 167 different species.
More than 1,000 lionfish examined from Bermuda waters had eaten a total of 2,268 fish from 46 different species.
Dr Eddy said: “The paper shows considerable variation in lionfish diet between locations, which reflects differences in prey fish availability and highlights the importance of studying lionfish diet wherever they’re found.
“The paper also provides a means to estimate the total biomass of prey eaten by a lionfish population.
“While that’s not necessarily needed in Bermuda because we’ve already done that research, it is very useful in areas where data is limited or lionfish diet hasn’t been fully described.”
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