The lionfish is a wonder to look at for its natural beauty. However, don't be fooled with its beauty because these creatures are known to be voracious eaters. In fact, they are considered invasive species because they can literally eat out its competitors and cause a major imbalance in an ecosystem. This is exactly what this fish is doing as it traverses through the waters stretching from the Gulf in Mexico to the Eastern Seaboard.
Scientists and several startup groups are crafting new ways to catch these invaders. While the new ideas show a lot of promise, spearfishing, the tried and tested way to catch these invaders, still seem to be the most cost-effective way to get them eradicated.
"It is quite hard to describe how these hungry invaders eat because they do it so fast," said Kristen Dahl, a researcher from the University of Florida. The Lionfish is known to employ a series of tactics too complex that no other creature in the ocean is ever able to replicate. In split second, the lionfish can be seen hovering the prey to flaring its fins and then firing water from its mouth and eating its prey whole. Scientists have reported this in an article published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series in 2012. The attacks happens so fast the prey won't even time to swim away.
"What's interesting about opening the gut of a lion fish is that you get to sea that something is always freshly eaten," said Dahl. "It has become more like an immaculate condition."
Pterois volitans, popularly referred to as the lionfish primarily because of how they look are known in the US for being highly invasive creatures. Their frilly fins and bold colors make them a popular choice among those who are in aquarium trade. However, over the past 25 years, it seems as if those who are into trading aquatic animals dump their unwanted lionfish species into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This is according to the report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their popularity about those in the aquarium trade has also caused a huge spike in their breeding.
Fast and powerful -- that's what the lionfish is known for. But one of its biggest advantages for survival in the ocean is its novelty. Since the first of the breeding populations was spotted off the coast of North Carolina, it has rapidly overtaken the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean and The Carribean Sea.
"Sightings have increased rapidly since its discovery in 2004," said Pam Schofield, researcher for fishery and biologist from the U.S. Geological Survey. Today, the lionfish continue to grow in population and it is becoming a threat to the world's oceans.