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Red lionfish

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Red lionfish
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Pterois volitans

A drawing of a Red lionfish



The red lionfish genus-species name is the Pterois volitans. It is also known as the red firefish and the turkeyfish. The red lionfish is most famous for its invasive behavior. The red lionfish originally came from the Indo-Pacific region but it is invading the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Its natural habitat are coral reefs in warm, tropical waters. [2] Another thing that the red lionfish is know for are its poisonous spines. [3]

The redlionfish has brown and white stripes. The adult can grow up to 18 inches long and have tentacles above the eyes and under the mouth. They also have many unique features. For an example they have 13 dorsal spines, 10-11 dorsal soft rays, 3 anal spines, and 6-7 anal soft rays. Their spine is also venomous. It can cause pain, sweating, respiratory distress, and can paralyze people. The poison contains two protein a neuromuscular (relating to nerves and muscles) toxin and a neurotransmitter(a substance that transmits nerve impulses across a synapse) called acetylcholine. [4]

Body Design

Dorsal spines

The red lionfish has a beautiful body with white and brown stripes. The red lionfish has 13 poisonous dorsal spines and 14 pectoral rays.[2] It also has a bilateral symmetry meaning it can be divided into equal halves if it is divided from the top to the bottom and it divides it into a right and a left side.[5]The adult red lionfish can grow up to 18 inches long but when it is young it can be as little as 1 inch. It has clcloid scales which means that the anterior(toward the front) end is overlapped by the posterior(toward the rear) end giving the fish more flexibility. [6] One of the most interesting parts of the red lionfish is its poisonous spines. The venom is not usually lethal for humans but a sting is extremely painful. The venom from the red lionfish is a neuromuscular toxin and a neurotransmitter.[7]The red lionfish uses its spines for hunting. They can trap their prey, paralyze it, and then they can eat it. They do not always have to do this however. The red lionfish also uses their spines for protection, and because of this the areas that they are invading have no natural predators.[8]

Life Cycle

A picture of Red Lionfish eggs

The red lionfish (Pterois volitans) learns how to hunt at an early age. After they are born they begin to hunt small ciliates while only four days old. The larvae moves out of the water column after a period of approximately 25 to 40 days, at a size of 10-12 mm in length. [9] The Pterois volitans reproduction is sexual and utilizes external fertilization. [10]

Red lionfish are quick to bulk up and they develop large body sizes at an early age. This makes the predators stay away from the red lionfish so as to preserve the animals life. Also when they bulk up and develop their large body size it makes them more successful in mating. [11]


the places where the Pterois volitans originated

The red lionfish originated from the Indo-Pacific. Which starts from southern Japan to Micronesia, Australia, and the Philippines. When they are young they usually stay in groups, but when they are adults they will they travel alone.[12] It is said that the red lionfish loves to stay around coral reefs, but it still can be found in coral patches, sandy bottoms,and canal habitats. The red lionfish occurs around temperatures of 71.6°F to 82.4°F and can be found in depths of 32.8-574.1. [13]

The red lionfish usually eats any small fish, crabs, or shrimp. The red lionfish also have a unique way devouring their prey; they devour them in one gulp by spreading their pectoral fins and surrounding their prey.[14] The red lionfish usually eats at least 8.2 grams times its body weight per year. They also hunt for their food at night. The red lionfish shields his caudal fins by using its pectoral rays. This makes the prey unaware of the red lionfish, and soon when the prey is unaware the red lionfish attacks its prey. [15]

Invasive Behavior

A map showing the Red lionfish's invasive range.

Pterois volitans are native to the Indo-Pacific region. This includes western Australia and Malaysia to the Marquesas Islands and Oeno; north to southern Japan and southern Korea; south to Lord Howe, Kermadec, and Austral Islands.[2]The red lionfish has been invasive to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea since 1985 when it was discovered near Dania Beach in Florida.[16] They were introduced there when aquarium tanks broke open after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida.[2]

The red lionfish is very poisonous and it is on the top of the food chain in most ecosystems. It is on the top of the ecosystem because of its poisonous spines. They also reproduce in mass quantities. In ecosystems that they are invading, this is very bad. It's bad because there are a lot of lionfish but none of them are being eaten or removed naturally. Besides their poisonous spines, one of the biggest feature of the red lionfish is that they can eat their prey whole, giving them no chance for survival. [2]

Control Efforts

This is a red lionfish reporting sticker. If you see a lionfish call this number

The red lionfish is being controlled in several ways. One way the red lionfish is being controlled is by hunting them for recreation and for food. Their are many organizations that will hunt them to remove the red lionfish from their oceans.[17] Many researchers think that the red lionfish invasion can't be undone. They plan on controlling it by using predators to eat either the red lionfish, their egg, or larvae.[18]The government of Florida is encouraging people to hunt the red lionfish. People can hunt it by spear fishing or by casting nets into the water. There is currently no bag limit on the red lionfish because the government wants to get rid of it from their waters.[16]

Many experts think that complete eradication of the red lionfish is impossible. Instead they are just trying to control the population. Organizations like the Reef Environmental Education Foundation(REEF) and the Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation(BREEF) are encouraging people to remove the red lionfish from their waters. They are sending volunteers out to stop the spread of the red lionfish and they are also encouraging people to eat them. However places where the red lionfish is being constantly consumed there are no noticeable changes in their population numbers.[18]


Two videos about the red lion fish and how they are invasive.


  1. Pterois volitans Wikispecies. Web. last update on December 23 2013 at 10:53. Unknown author.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Wood, Mahya. Red firefish University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Web. Created in 2001.
  3. Robins, Robert. [ Red Lionfish] FLMNH. Web. Accessed on October 23rd, 2014.
  4. [1] Lionfish Biology Fact Sheet. Web. Last modified. May 31, 2011. Author Unknown
  5. Porch, and Batdorf. Biology with Laboratory Exercises. South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 2005. page-number. Print.
  6. Lionfish Biology Fact Sheet NOAA . Web. last-update May 31, 2011 Unknown Author .
  7. The Lionfish Invasion! NOAA . Web. last-update May 09, 2011 Unknown Author .
  8. Flatheads Gurnards Scorpionfishes and Relatives: Scorpaeniformes - Red Lionfish (pterois Volitans): Species Accounts jrank . Web. Accessed on October 19, 2014 Unknown Author .
  9. NA. Diving with Lionfish Dive the World'for mating '. Web. 8 October 2014. (Date-Accessed).
  10. J. Masteron. Red Lionfish Smithsonian Station at Fort Pierce. Web. December 1, 2007. (Date-Updated)
  11. NA. Diving with Lionfish Dive the World'for mating '. Web. 19 October 2014. (Date-Accessed).
  12. Schofield. PJ. Morris, JA. Langston, JN. Fuller, Pl. [2] Nonindigenous Aquatic Species. Web. Last modified September 18, 2012.
  13. [3] Global Invasive Species Database. Web. Last modified. August 10, 2010. Author Unknown
  14. [4] Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce. Web. Last modified. December 1, 2007. Author Unknown
  15. Fishelson, L. [5] Animal Diveristy Web. Web. date accessed October 27, 2014.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Lionfish FWC. Web. Accessed on October 27th, 2014. Author unknown
  17. lionfish hunting Lionfish Hunters. Web. Visited on October 14 2014. Unknown author.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Morris Jr., J.A. and Akins J. L. . Noaa's Coral Information System NOAA. Web. Last Update November 14, 2008.
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