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Red lionfish

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Red lionfish
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Pterois volitans

Red Lion Fish

The red lionfish is a species (Pterois volitans) of venemous coral reef fish belonging to the scorpionfish family (Scorpaenidae). They are native to the Indian and western Pacific oceans, and are now an invasive species found in the western Atlantic Ocean from southern Florida to New York and Bermuda. They appear to be a reproducing along the southeastern U.S. coast. They are also commonly known as are turkeyfish, dragonfish, and firefish.[1]



A full-grown Lion Fish can reach up to 13.8 inches at maximum length. Due to its very long prickly venom filled fins the Lion Fish is one of the most recognizable of all the marine fish. The most interesting parts of the Red Lion Fish are its colors from red to black and the head and body along with its strange pectoral shape. The long pectoral rays have a lot of different connecting membranes that appear to be separated strands. The anal and dorsal fins have many rows of darkened spotted rows with a yellow background. The Lion Fish has many spines all over its body and even though people think all of them are poisonous only the ones on the non-pelvic areas are which are the pectoral, anal, and dorsal fins. The Red Lion Fish has teeth that are very small but numerous and are located in big clusters on bottom of its mouth and some on the roof of its mouth. These teeth are good for catching small prey but not large prey. [2]


The Red Lion Fish reproduces sexually and uses very complex courtship rituals. The fish fertilizes the eggs externally instead of internally. The good things about fertilizing the eggs externally is that the eggs will have a better chance of surviving because the Lion Fish might die. The Lion Fish usually lives alone instead of in groups but when they are ready to begin their courtship rituals they will get into large groups of three to eight male Lion Fish. In 1975 it was found that when entering courtship behaviors the males would use their spines in violent visual displays. When females find an area where the male Lion Fish can fertilize their eggs they will lay mucus-encapsulated clusters of 2,000 to 15,000 eggs so they can be fertilized. In the environment around the egg there are bacteria that will break down the mass mucus in the egg to help the hatching process. The egg will take up to 12 hours to be fertilized where it will hatch in around 36 hours. The new born lion fish become fine swimmers around two to three days after they have hatched, where they can then hunt and catch small Zooplankton.[3]


Research diver conducting visual transect survey for lionfish and native fish community.

The Red Lion Fish feeds mainly on small fish, shrimps, and crabs like most of the Pterois. Studies showed that one Lion Fish can eat as much as 8.2 times its body weight in one year. It uses it very long pectoral fins to trap small creatures into a corner, they usually only feed at night. Sometimes parasites can get onto the tongue of a Red Lion Fish that are normally found on Blue Crab and Grass Shrimp. The Red Lion Fish’s small but numerous teeth located on both the top and bottom of its mouth are good for catching small creatures like shrimp and crab. In 1973 it was found that they used their pectoral fins to corner the prey that lives in the coral. [4]

Lionfish and humans

The Red Lion Fish have formed a invasion in the past. There was a accidental release of six Red Lion Fish in the Southeast. The reason for this incident was due to the Hurricane Andrew that destroyed a large private aquarium on somebody’s porch on the side of Biscayne Bay in 1992. The Red Lion Fish were spotted in a habitat about seven days later. In 1993 and 2002 on the East Coast of Florida there were large continuous and seemingly unstoppable growths of Lion Fish appeared. Then many research facilities started capturing and collecting Lion Fish specimens for studies. The Red Lion Fish is important to humans in many ways because they are not only a very good source of food, if prepared properly, but are displayed very widely in aquariums because of their very colorful pectoral fins. All the entertainment that the Red Lion Fish has provided has brought in over one billion dollars so they are very important in a financial type of way. The Red Lion Fish are also very dangerous to humans because their sting from their pectoral fins can lead to extreme health emergencies.


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