Do Groupers Eat Lionfish

David Lawrence
• Friday, 09 October, 2020
• 15 min read

With a little help from a big friend you will see in the video below a Nassau grouper eating a small healthy lionfish. Is this one tiny step towards groupers naturally controlling lionfish ?.

fish grouper eating lion
(Source: www.youtube.com)


On Little Cayman where they do have some very diver friendly Nassau groupers I believe it is a little more than a tiny step for their little island. The lionfish will turns its head away from a potential predator and splay out all its 18 venomous spines.

If it is grabbed or ends up inside a predators mouth those spines can do a lot of damage and they pack a venomous punch. I used to live in Bristol, England but after a change in direction we moved overseas to work in the scuba diving industry.

I’m a dive instructor, working for Tortuga Divers, part of the Red Sail group. From our FAQ page, “Natural predators in the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea that are known to lionfish include sharks, cornet fish, grouper, large eels, frog fish and other scorpion fish.

There is speculation that large snapper and some species of trigger fish lionfish in their native ranges as well.” But these are all examples of opportunistic feeding with human interaction and not true natural predation of lionfish.

Recently Roman Muñoz, a research fishery biologist for NOAA, published a paper documenting the discovery of a spotted Moray eel that was brought up far offshore of Jacksonville, FL that coughed up a lionfish when it landed on deck. This is the first verified example of natural predation of the invasive lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean because the Moray was found in an area where divers would not have been hunting.

grouper lionfish eats
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Great question, I’ve seen grown men cry from a lionfish sting so it’s no joke, how can other fish eat them without suffering? The best answer we’ve heard is that because fish are cold-blooded the venom does not have as much effect as it does on a warm-blooded animal.

Groupers may be able to limit the invasion of lionfish on the Caribbean coral reefs, according to new research conducted by The University of Queensland (Up). The discovery by an international research team, led by Up's School of Biological Science's, Professor Peter Mummy, could help save native fish populations in the Caribbean, which are being decimated by the pretty but ravenous aquarium favorite.

Lionfish are not found naturally in the Caribbean and it is believed they many have been released from aquariums in the United States and eventually made their way to the Bahamas in 2004. Professor Mummy said Lionfish numbers have increased dramatically in the past few years, and they have now invaded the entire Caribbean.

The team surveyed reefs inside and outside the Extra Cays Land and Sea Park, which are some of the most diverse marine reserves in the Caribbean, having been established in 1959. The lionfish (Steroid Holsteins) are naturally found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but have invaded the Atlantic.

The research team from the University of Queensland (Australia) and American Museum of Natural History (New York) studied the invasion of lionfish in a remote stretch of coral reef in the Bahamas. It’s a venomous predatory fish that’s usually found in the warm waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans.

grouper goliath lionfish eating
(Source: www.youtube.com)

These pointy bristles poke the skin and inject venom that can cause pain, swelling, and bleeding. Because these beautiful fish are so dangerous, you might be surprised to learn that some animals can actually eat the lionfish.

Most of the lionfish ’s predators can avoid being hurt by its venom in all sorts of unique ways. This means that they’re eating many of the native fish and are multiplying faster because they have no predators in those waters.

Some researchers have found that sharks are either immune to lionfish venom or aren’t affected that badly by it. Scientists hope that by encouraging sharks in the Atlantic Ocean to lionfish, these large predators will naturally begin to hunt lionfish themselves.

By eating the lionfish, they help control its population and make it harder for the venomous fish to multiply. Cornet fish usually hunt for prey closer to the ocean floor, where many lionfish tend to swim as well.

Groupers can lionfish by waiting for the right moment to attack so that the venomous spines don’t poke them. Scientists are trying to get groupers in the Atlantic Ocean to start attacking more lionfish to control their population.

lionfish grouper invasive water dailypedia
(Source: www.youtube.com)

There have been some successful studies showing that groupers in the Caribbean waters can become a natural predator of the lionfish. One team of researchers also found that areas in the ocean with a lot of groupers have much smaller populations of lionfish.

Scientists hope that groupers won’t be overfished in the next few years, so they can focus on controlling the lionfish population. Large eels are another predator of lionfish the Atlantic Ocean that scientists are training starting eating lionfish.

However, because the lionfish is covered in so many venomous spikes, it can be hard for the eels to properly attack and eat them without getting hurt. For now, it’s unsure whether large eels in the Atlantic Ocean will be able to help reduce the lionfish population overtime.

Once they’ve gotten close enough to their prey, frog fish attack extremely fast to give the smaller fish no chance of escape. Because the lionfish doesn’t see the camouflaged frog fish, it’s caught off guard and can’t use its venomous spines to defend itself.

Like lionfish, scorpion fish also live in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and have venomous spines that protect them from predators. Though lionfish are beautiful and interesting creatures, their growing population in the Atlantic Ocean is a big concern for the preservation of other fish species.

lionfish grouper
(Source: www.youtube.com)

The lionfish can multiply and consume protected fish species because they have no predators in the Atlantic Ocean to stop them. Originally indigenous to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Men and I have witnessed their presence as far-reaching as the NC coast, our stomping grounds, down to the Bahamas, over to Honduras, Belize, South Florida, all throughout the Caribbean.

Identified prey includes: fairy basset, bridled cardinal fish, white grunt, bi color dam selfish, wrasses, striped parrot fish, dusky Benny, Nassau grouper, and yellow tail snapper. Initial work looking at crustacean prey suggests that lionfish may also eat the juvenile spiny lobster (Panelists Argus), which means big problems for places with a history of commercial spiny lobster fishing.

As Men and I travel around on Nile Girl, our 35 Pearson sailing-vessel, we find lionfish in virtually every port of call, which makes it a really reliable source of protein. The red lionfish is covered with venomous dorsal, pectoral, and anal spines.

When these spines penetrate a potential enemy of the fish, the poisonous mucus is injected and the side effects begin. The sensation of the lionfish sting (I know this because I had to wipe poor Men’s tears away one beautiful afternoon after being hit by one) is like being stung by the biggest wasp you can imagine…well…probably not that big.

If this happens to you, stick the affected appendage in the hottest water you can tolerate and wait. Take control, lip the fish, then use a pair of sharp scissors to cut away the spines.

pet grouper lionfish
(Source: www.youtube.com)

After the spines are cut away, it is safe to move in and brain the poor beast, putting it out of any misery you have caused it. It’s delicate and mild tasting meat make perfect ceviche and carpaccio (for recipes refer to the Gourmet Galley on our Nile Girl website, not yet posted though).

Do something great for the environment of the Caribbean and eastern US seaboard while doing something good for your body and taste buds. The problem is our fault and the lionfish deserves the same respect as any other living creature.

She lives with her husband Men and 3-year-old An ion their trimaran sailboat in North Carolina in the summer months and the Caribbean in the winter. University of Hawaii at Manor Invasive lionfish speared and placed on ice, ready to be filleted and cooked.

Cooking lionfish denatures venom proteins, ensuring accurate ciguatera testing. Scientists have learned that recent fears of invasive lionfish causing fish poisoning may be unfounded.

Pacific lionfish were first reported off the coast of Florida in the 1980s, and have been gaining swiftly in number ever since. They’re now found in marine habitats throughout the tropical and subtropical Western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, threatening native fishes with their voracious appetites and unchecked population growth.

lionfish grouper tail fuzzy dwarf eat
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Targeted removal is the only management strategy that seems to help, and many hopes to establish a food fishery to increase the fishing pressure on these ravenous predators. Such a strategy is in jeopardy, though, because the FDA added the lionfishes Steroid Holsteins and Steroid miles to their ciguatera watch list, a catalog of species that may contain the potentially fatal foodborne toxin, citing evidence that lionfish have positively tested for ciguatera.

The toxins themselves are colorless, odorless and tasteless, and cannot be destroyed or removed through any normal process of fish preparation, thus accurate testing is the only way to ensure food is safe to consume. It struck Wilcox that, at the cellular level, lionfish venom might be difficult to distinguish from ciguatoxins because they have similar activities.

“Just the fear and rumor of ciguatera is enough to close a fishery, and that's the last thing we need as we try to encourage people to fight lionfish explosion by eating the invader.” Wilcox hopes that the research will urge researchers to carefully examine their testing protocols to ensure that the proteins she discovered in lionfish tissues don’t lead to unwarranted fear of lionfish consumption.

“The first, easy step is to cook or boil lionfish samples prior to ciguatoxin testing. False positive tests for ciguatera may derail efforts to control invasive lionfish, Environmental Biology of Fishes, DOI: 10.1007/s10641-014-0313-0.

Identification: Family Scorpaenidae (Scorpion fishes) The head is large, from 1/3 to 1/2 the standard length. The dorsal fin has strong, venomous spines (VIII to XVII).

grouper lionfish open water invasive vs caribbean relationship gobbled documented between kill ashley native observation recorded peerj gustafson examining re
(Source: reefnation.com)

Two visually identical species have been introduced into the north-west Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Although identification information is given below, this was derived for specimens from the native range.

At this time, positive identification can only be achieved through genetic analysis. The body is white or cream colored red to reddish-brown vertical stripes.

The Devil Fire fish is found primarily in Indian Ocean and Red Sea (as opposed to the Red Lionfish, which is predominantly a Pacific species); however, its range extends to Sumatra where the two species co-occur. Although it appears very similar to the Red Lionfish, the Devil Fire fish has fewer dorsal- and anal-fin rays.

Recent genetic work has revealed that the Atlantic population of Red Lionfish is composed primarily of P. Holsteins with a few P. miles (Hammer et al. 2007). Native Range: Widely distributed throughout the western Pacific from southern Japan to Micronesia, Australia and the Philippines.

Steroid Holsteins occurs throughout most of Oceania (including the Marshall Islands, New Caledonia and Fiji) east to French Polynesia. Steroid miles are from the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, although its range extends to Sumatra.

lionfish grouper eaten eat nassau
(Source: lionfish-hunting.com)

An update to this article (Schofield 2010) gives the current range of lionfish through November 2010. Atlantic Coast of the USA : Lionfishes have been established from Miami to North Carolina since 2002.

Sightings of lionfishes are becoming common in the northern Gulf of Mexico, especially associated with artificial reefs (including oil/gas platforms). Bermuda, Bahamas, Turks and Pieces and Cayman Islands : Lionfishes were numerous in Bermuda by 2004 and established in the Bahamas by 2005, the Turks and Pieces by 2008 and the Cayman Islands by 2009.

Greater Antilles : Lionfishes are established off all islands in the Greater Antilles (Cuba , Jamaica , Hispaniola and Puerto Rico ). Lesser Antilles : Lionfish presence has been confirmed throughout the leeward and windward islands.

The species is reported from popular press articles in Cyprus (Euripides 2013). Let et al. (2016) reported that lionfish had recently increased in abundance and colonized almost the entire south-eastern coast of Cyprus.

Azure et al. (2017) reviews the invasion of lionfish in the Mediterranean, which currently extends to Italy. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records.

grouper lionfish deep bonaire reef
(Source: www.youtube.com)

The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Steroid Holsteins/miles are found here. Ecology: Lionfishes inhabit natural (e.g., reef) and artificial structure (e.g., wrecks) at depths from just a few inches of water to over 300 m. In the invaded range, lionfishes have been found in a variety of habitats, including reefs, wrecks, bridge pilings, seagrass and natural hard bottom.

However, the lionfish is a notable exception with its greatly extended fin spines and striking coloration. In the native range juveniles live in small groups, but as adults they typically occur alone (Michelson 1997).

Individuals are relatively inactive during the day, typically sheltering in reef crevices. The prey of lionfishes includes small fishes and crustaceans (Michelson 1975; Harmelin-Vivien and Bourbon 1976).

Surprisingly, although it was thought the species' northward expansion along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. would be limited by cool water temperatures, lionfish have been observed in water as cold as 56 F off the southern coast of Long Island (T. Gardner, peers. There is a tremendous amount of research on lionfishes in the invaded range, which has generated many scientific papers.

For a comprehensive summary of lionfish biology and ecology in the Atlantic and Caribbean, see: Means of Introduction: The most probable explanation for the arrival of lionfishes in the Atlantic Ocean is via the aquarium trade (Whitfield et al. 2002; Segment et al. 2004).

lionfish biotic grouper
(Source: appliedecology.cals.ncsu.edu)

No one will ever know with certainty how lionfishes gained entry to the coastal waters of the U.S.; however, as they are a common aquarium fishes, it is possible they were released pets. The well-publicized report of lionfish establishment due to a breakage of a large aquarium by Hurricane Andrew is probably erroneous.

Status: Lionfishes are established along the Atlantic coast of the USA (from the Florida Keys to Cape Hatteras), the Caribbean coasts of Central and South America, the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout the Greater Antilles, Leeward and Windward Islands. Impact of Introduction: Research by Albino and Nixon (2008) on small patch reefs in the Bahamas provided the first evidence of negative effects of lionfish on native Atlantic coral-reef fishes.

Over the five-week period, net recruitment (i.e., accumulation of new juvenile fishes via settlement of larvae) was reduced by 79% on reefs with a single lionfish compared to reefs with no lionfish. Stomach content analyses and observations of feeding behavior showed that reductions in native fish density were almost certainly due to predation by lionfish.

Prey items found in lionfish stomachs included the fairy basset Grammar lore to, bridled cardinal fish Aragon aurolineatus, white grunt Hamilton plumier ii, bi color dam selfish States permits, several wrasses Halichoeres bivittatus, H. garnet and Thalami bifasciatum, striped parrot fish Scars insert, and dusky Benny Malcontents Gill. Initial examination of crustacean prey suggests that lionfish may also eat the juvenile spiny lobster Panelists Argus.

The reduction in recruitment of coral-reef fishes suggests that lionfish may also compete with native pismires by monopolizing this important food resource. In addition, lionfish have the potential to decrease the abundance of ecologically important species such as parrot fish and other herbivorous fishes that keep seaweeds and macro algae from overgrowing corals.

lionfish cornetfish eats grouper hunting frogfish sharks eels scorpionfish picmonkey collage
(Source: lionfish-hunting.com)

Additional research in the Bahamas has documented a marked impact on native fish communities. Albino (2012) manipulated densities of lionfish and a native predator (Coney grouper, Cephalopods vulva) on small patch reefs in the Bahamas over an 8-week time period.

The Greatest effects on the native community were seen when both lionfish and grouper were present on reefs, a situation that is likely occurring across much of the Caribbean at this time. Long-term effects of lionfish are unknown; however, Albino and Nixon (2012) suggest that direct and indirect effects of lionfish could combine with the impacts of preexisting stressors (especially overfishing) and cause substantial deleterious changes in coral-reef communities.

Ballet et al. 2016 examined the impact of lionfish on native fish abundance in across the southeastern United States (North Carolina to Florida) over the duration of the lionfish invasion (1990-2014). They found that lionfish reduced the abundance of a native forage fish (rotate, Hamilton aurolineatum) by 45%.

Non-native, invasive Red lionfish (Steroid Holsteins :Scorpaenidae), is first recorded in the southern Gulf of Mexico, off the northern Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. Effects of invasive Pacific red lionfish Steroid Holsteins versus a native predator on Bahamian coral-reef fish communities.

Invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Steroid Holsteins) reduce recruitment of the Atlantic coral-reef fishes. Worst case scenario: potential long-term effects of invasive predatory lionfish (Steroid Holsteins) on the Atlantic and Caribbean coral-reef communities.

lionfish fish invasion bahamas lion spiny venomous kill reef invading florida threatens spreading hunters population funny quarters three help they
(Source: mashable.com)

The presence of the invasive Lionfish Steroid miles in the Mediterranean Sea. Invasive lionfish reduce native fish abundance on a regional scale.

Chevalier, P.P., E. Gutiérrez, D. Barnabas, S. Romero, V. Islam, J. Calderon and E. Hernández. Primer registry DE Steroid Holsteins (Pisces: Scorpaenidae) para aquas Cubans.

Newsletter of the Introduced Fish Section, American Fisheries Society 14: 2-3. First record of invasive lionfish (Steroid Holsteins) for the Brazilian coast.

Ethology and reproduction of steroid fishes found in the Gulf of Arab (Red Sea), especially Dendrochirus brachypterus (Cuvier), (Steroidal, Teleostean). Publication Della Station zoological DI Naomi 39: 635-656.

Experiments and observations on food consumption, growth and starvation in Dendrochirus brachypterus and Steroid Holsteins (Terminal, Scorpaenidae). First-known lionfish caught in Florida's Gulf Coast waters.

lionfish eat fish invasive safe baby grouper reef they sea them delicious predators oceana species sandals native shutterstock
(Source: oceana.org)

Record densities of Indo-Pacific lionfish on Bahamian coral reefs. Invasive lionfish drive Atlantic coral reef fish declines.

First Record for the Indo-Pacific red lionfish Steroid Holsteins (Linnaeus, 1758) for the Dominican Republic. Mitochondrial monochrome b analysis reveals two invasive species with strong founder effects in the western Atlantic.

Feeding behavior of some carnivorous fishes (Serranidae and Scorpaenidae) from Clear (Madagascar). Thermal tolerance and potential distribution of invasive lionfish (Steroid Holsteins / miles complex) on the east coast of the United States.

A lionfish (Steroid miles) has begun in the Mediterranean Sea. Molecular phylogeny of the lionfish genera Dendrochirus and Steroid (Scorpaenidae, Terminal) based on mitochondrial DNA sequences.

Presence of the invasive red lionfish, Steroid Holsteins (Linnaeus, 1758), on the coast of Venezuela, southeastern Caribbean Sea. Predation on the invasive red lionfish, Steroid Holsteins (Pisces: Scorpaenidae), by native groupers in the Bahamas.

does taste lionfish eat eating really grouper snapper fish lion food sushi animals why mahi tastes
(Source: lionfish.co)

Further evidence for the invasion and establishment of Steroid Holsteins (Teleostean: Scorpaenidae) along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific.

Exotic species sighting program and volunteer survey project database. The western Pacific red lionfish, Steroid Holsteins (Scorpaenidae), in Florida: Evidence for reproduction and parasitism in the first exotic marine fish established in state waters.

A hotspot of non-native marine fishes: evidence for the aquarium trade as an invasion pathway. Invasive lionfish species confirmed in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Turn, C., D. Argued, M. Gurley, D. Yaghoglu, A. Ryan and N. Your. First record of the Indo-Pacific lionfish Steroid miles (Bennett, 1828) (Osteichthyes: Scorpaenidae) for the Turkish marine waters.

Whitfield, P. E., T. Gardner, S. P. Gives, M. R. Gilligan, W. R. Courtesy, Jr., G. C. Ray and J. Biological invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish (Steroid Holsteins) along the Atlantic coast of North America.

lionfish eat hunting fish mouth they caribbean facts species invasive goby predators virgin its shot
(Source: lionfish-hunting.com)

Abundance estimates of the Indo-Pacific lionfish Steroid Holsteins / miles complex in the Western North Atlantic. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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1 marinesanctuary.org - https://marinesanctuary.org/blog/goliath-grouper-habitat-diet-and-reproduction/
2 www.georgiaaquarium.org - https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/animal/goliath-grouper/
3 mnzoo.org - https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/goliath-grouper/
4 www.petmetwice.com - https://www.petmetwice.com/groupers/
5 www.safariltd.com - https://www.safariltd.com/safaripedia/goliath-grouper
6 marine-conservation.org - https://marine-conservation.org/on-the-tide/atlantic-goliath-grouper/
7 www.fishbase.se - https://www.fishbase.se/Country/CountrySpeciesSummary.php
8 safmc.net - https://safmc.net/regulations/regulations-by-species/goliath-grouper/