Lion tamers wanted, must like to fish

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 11:42 AM.

To stay healthy, reef fish are dependent on “cleaners,” small fish and shrimp that remove parasites from larger fish. Lionfish happily consume cleaners and are rarely troubled by parasites.

Faletti said lionfish behave differently than native predators. They are slow moving and use their flowing fins to corner prey with slow, deliberate movements, then fan it into the mouth with those fins so they appear to vacuum it up.

Because they are nonnative, prey fish do not recognize lionfish as a threat and native predators do not recognize it as food.

Faletti said biologists have been unable to identify predators that feed on lionfish in their native range. She and Shepard said attempts are being made to train large predators in the Gulf and Atlantic to feed on lionfish. Faletti said the attempt is controversial because it is unclear whether large fish are being trained to feed on lionfish or on any fish that has been speared.

Shepard said he believes sharks feed on lionfish. He said goliath grouper, will not eat them but other grouper species will eat injured ones. Snapper will eat them after they have been cut into pieces.


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