LIONFISH (Pterios volitans)
Pronounced: Ter-ee-os vo-li-tans Order: Scorpaeniformes
Kingdom: Animalia Family: Scorpaenidae
Phylum: Chordata Genus: Pterios
Class: Osteichthyes Species: Volitans


With 18 dorsal fins shaped like needles and filled with venom, the Lionfish doesn’t need to roar to be King of the Coral Reef! Native to the Indo-Pacific coral reefs, this fish is starting to spread to other areas, and may become a concern if it takes over the habitat of other fish. This kind of animal (or plant) is called an Invasive Species and can disrupt the balance of an ecosystem.

Also called the scorpion fish, dragon fish or turkey fish, it uses its venom only as a defense. When hunting prey such as smaller fish and shrimp, it relies on its quick reflexes. It also has a habit of herding schools of smaller fish with its fins outstretched until it gets them to a place where they can’t escape. Then it eats them.

Growing to a foot or longer (30 – 38 cm), they can weigh over two pounds. Their red, black, brown and white patterns of spots, swirls, and lines, warn predators that they are dangerous. Because of their colors and their venom, they don’t have many natural predators. However, some still fall prey to grouper or other scorpionfish.

Female Lionfish will lay egg masses with about 2000-15000 eggs in them, near the surface of the water. The eggs are in a gelatinous substance that dissolves after about 24 hours, leaving the eggs to float freely for another 36 hours until they hatch into baby fish, called fry. Many don’t survive, but those that do immediately start to feed on microscopic animals called plankton.

Although they are spreading to regions far from where they were originally native, the lionfish is susceptible to decline due to the continuing destruction of coral reefs around the world. It is also sensitive to water pollution and is routinely captured for sales in the pet fish industry.


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