Have you ever heard of the lionfish? It’s a venomous predatory fish that’s usually found in the warm waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Lately, many of these lionfish have also been spotted in the Atlantic Ocean. What’s most interesting about this marine animal is its unusual body. It comes in colors like brown, maroon, or red and has a pattern of white stripes throughout its body. But this isn’t the most unique thing about them. Lionfish also have venomous spines sticking out of its top and bottom halves. 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. Read on to learn more about the many predators of the lionfish!
Main Lionfish Predators
Lionfish have become more common in the Atlantic Ocean, which is not actually their natural habitat. As a result, lionfish have become an invasive species in the Atlantic Ocean. This means that they’re eating many of the native fish and are multiplying faster because they have no predators in those waters. To combat this, some marine biologists have tried training sharks to eat lionfish. Sharks in the Indo-Pacific Ocean are natural predators of the lionfish. If sharks in the Atlantic Ocean also start to hunt lionfish, the lionfish population won’t become too large. Some researchers have found that sharks are either immune to lionfish venom or aren’t affected that badly by it. Sharks are also known to be able to eat other venomous fish such as pufferfish and stingrays. Scientists hope that by encouraging sharks in the Atlantic Ocean to eat lionfish, these large predators will naturally begin to hunt lionfish themselves. However, it will likely take time before this becomes the norm.
Cornetfishes are usually found in coral reefs and other warm waters. Some can be found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, similar to the lionfish. In these waters, the cornetfish is one of the lionfish’s natural predators. By eating the lionfish, they help control its population and make it harder for the venomous fish to multiply. Cornetfish have very long bodies with long snouts. Their long tail is very sensitive and can help them detect the presence of prey. They hunt by stalking and attacking their unsuspecting victims. Cornetfish usually hunt for prey closer to the ocean floor, where many lionfish tend to swim as well. Besides the lionfish, cornetfish also eat other small fishes, crustaceans, and squid.
Similar to sharks, groupers are a natural predator of lionfish in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Though there are many different kinds of groupers, they are usually easy to identify because of their large, “sad” mouths. They also have very sharp tooth plates that they use for crushing their prey. Groupers can eat lionfish by waiting for the right moment to attack so that the venomous spines don’t poke them. Swallowing the venom from the fish is no problem for the grouper because stomach acid can destroy it.
Scientists are trying to get groupers in the Atlantic Ocean to start attacking more lionfish to control their population. 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. However, the number of groupers in the ocean is getting smaller because it’s a popular fish for humans to eat. Scientists hope that groupers won’t be overfished in the next few years so they can focus on controlling the lionfish population.
4. Large Eels
Lionfish are no match for large eels like the moray eel. Eels are fish with very long bodies, similar to a snake. Large eels often have very sharp teeth with strong jaws that they can open very wide. They use these to grab hold of their prey and wound them. Once the prey is weakened, they can then start to crush and eat it using their strong teeth and jaws.
Large eels are another predator of lionfishin the Atlantic Ocean that scientists are training to start 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.
Frogfish are also known as anglerfishes. They are found in most tropical or subtropical waters throughout the world. They’re able to catch prey because of their well-camouflaged skin that helps them hide from other fish. Some species of frogfish can even change color! Once they’ve gotten close enough to their prey, frogfish attack extremely fast to give the smaller fish no chance of escape. The frogfish’s technique is especially handy when it comes to attacking lionfish. Because the lionfish doesn’t see the camouflaged frogfish, it’s caught off guard and can’t use its venomous spines to defend itself.
Our final predator of lionfish is scorpionfish. Like lionfish, scorpionfish also live in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and have venomous spines that protect them from predators. In fact, lionfish and scorpionfish actually come from the same family; they are both a kind of Scorpaenidae. Because they are so similar it is believed that scorpionfish may have a little immunity to the lionfish’s venom. This gives bigger scorpionfish an advantage when it comes to hunting lionfish. Some varieties of scorpionfish, such as the humpback scorpionfish, can also blend into their surroundings and attack unsuspecting lionfish.
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. The lionfish can multiply and consume protected fish species because they have no predators in the Atlantic Ocean to stop them. Learning about the natural predators of the lionfish is a great first step for marine scientists to begin controlling the spread of lionfish in those waters.
I hope that this article on lionfish predators was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!