Project Abstract – Jake

Feeding habits and competitive abilities of Pterois volitans and Holocentrus rufus in Caribbean reef ecosystems.

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There have been many instances in the past where people have jumped to conclusions and taken the wrong measures trying to solve a problem. Currently the invasion of lionfish (Pterois volitans) in Caribbean waters is being viewed as a major problem and people are being told that this fish will destroy the reef ecosystem by significantly reducing native reef fish populations. Papers published claiming lionfish eating over twenty Wrasse in an hour portray the fish as a “super predator” that will rid the waters of any small fish. Just like the movie “Jaws” left no remorse for sharks in the 1970's, scientists are giving lionfish a terrible reputation by stressing extreme examples of their predation.

This experiment was designed to demonstrate and compare the feeding habits of lionfish to other native reef species. Maximum consumption rates for lionfish (Pterois volitans) and squirrelfish (Holocentrus rufus) were recorded and showed that squirrelfish can consume almost four times as much as lionfish. When put in direct competition for a single food source, squirrelfish consumed the prey 71.4% of the time. Stomach contents of 34 lionfish caught in the wild were also analyzed and three Wrasse weighing a total of 2.9g was the most any of them contained. Considering both of these species consume the same prey, reproduce year round and have very few predators, maybe people should reconsider the true impacts lionfish have on Caribbean reefs.

 

– Jake

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