Original Paper

Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 6, pp 1213-1221

First online:

Mitochondrial control region sequence analyses indicate dispersal from the US East Coast as the source of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans in the Bahamas

  • D. Wilson FreshwaterAffiliated withCenter for Marine Science Email author 
  • , Andrew HinesAffiliated withCenter for Marine Science
  • , Seth ParhamAffiliated withCenter for Marine Science
  • , Ami WilburAffiliated withCenter for Marine Science
  • , Michelle SabaounAffiliated withBrunswick Community College
  • , Jennifer WoodheadAffiliated withBrunswick Community College
  • , Lad AkinsAffiliated withReef Environmental Education Foundation
  • , Bruce PurdyAffiliated withBlackbeard’s Cruises
  • , Paula E. WhitfieldAffiliated withNOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research
    • , Claire B. ParisAffiliated withMarine Biology and Fisheries, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami

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Lionfish are popular aquarium fish from the Indo-Pacific that have invaded the western Atlantic. Two species, Pterois volitans and P. miles, were well established along the United States east coast before the first lionfish were reported from the Bahamas in 2004, where they quickly dispersed throughout the archipelago by 2007. The source of the Bahamian lionfish invasion has been in question because of the hypothesized low connectivity between Florida and Bahamas reef species as well as the temporal lag in their arrival in the Bahamas. Mitochondrial control region haplotypes (680 bp) were determined and analyzed for lionfish specimens from the Bahamas, North Carolina, and two sites within their native range (Indonesia and the Philippines). Exact tests, pairwise F st and AMOVA analyses all showed no significant differentiation between the Bahamas and North Carolina specimens. The similarity between the Bahamas and North Carolina lionfish was also reflected in a minimum spanning network and neighbor-joining distance tree generated from the data. Sequence analyses also revealed the presence of only Pterois volitans, as no P. miles were detected in the Bahamian sample. These results indicate that the source of the Bahamian lionfish is egg and larval dispersal from the United States east coast population, and support previous models of reef fish dispersal that suggest a low level of connectivity between the Bahamas and east coast of Florida.