Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 6, pp 1213–1221 | Cite as

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 FreshwaterEmail author
  • Andrew Hines
  • Seth Parham
  • Ami Wilbur
  • Michelle Sabaoun
  • Jennifer Woodhead
  • Lad Akins
  • Bruce Purdy
  • Paula E. Whitfield
  • Claire B. Paris
Original Paper


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 Fst 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.


East Coast Reef Fish Mitochondrial Control Region Regional Ocean Modeling System Pelagic Larval Duration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Participation in this study by UNCW students and Brunswick Community College faculty was supported by NSF ROA supplement award to MRI grant #0618453. Additional funding was provided by NOAA’s Invasive Species Program. Collection of North Carolina specimens was supported by UNCW’s National Undersea Research Center and NOAA. Bahamas specimens were collected with the support of REEF and Blackbeard’s Cruises. The excellent help provided by the many NURC, NOAA and REEF cruise divers is greatly appreciated and we wish to especially thank James Morris for his many efforts to facilitate our Bahamas studies. The experiments in this study complied with the current laws of the Bahamas and United States of America, and all Bahamian lionfish were collected under research permit MAF/FIS/12:MAF/FIS/17 to James Morris.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Wilson Freshwater
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew Hines
    • 1
  • Seth Parham
    • 1
  • Ami Wilbur
    • 1
  • Michelle Sabaoun
    • 2
  • Jennifer Woodhead
    • 2
  • Lad Akins
    • 3
  • Bruce Purdy
    • 4
  • Paula E. Whitfield
    • 5
  • Claire B. Paris
    • 6
  1. 1.Center for Marine ScienceWilmingtonUSA
  2. 2.Brunswick Community CollegeSupplyUSA
  3. 3.Reef Environmental Education FoundationKey LargoUSA
  4. 4.Blackbeard’s CruisesDavieUSA
  5. 5.NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat ResearchBeaufortUSA
  6. 6.Marine Biology and Fisheries, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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