Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 4, pp 773–781 | Cite as

Wide-ranging phylogeographic structure of invasive red lionfish in the Western Atlantic and Greater Caribbean

  • John S. S. Butterfield
  • Edgardo Díaz-Ferguson
  • Brian R. Silliman
  • Jonathan W. Saunders
  • Dayne Buddo
  • Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni
  • Linda Searle
  • Aarin C. Allen
  • Margaret E. HunterEmail author
Original Paper


The red lionfish (Pterois volitans) is an invasive predatory marine fish that has rapidly expanded its presence in the Western Hemisphere. We collected 214 invasive red lionfish samples from nine countries and territories, including seven unpublished locations. To more comprehensively evaluate connectivity, we compiled our d-loop sequence data with 846 published sequences, resulting in 1,060 samples from 14 locations. We found low nucleotide diversity (π = 0.003) and moderate haplotype diversity (h = 0.59). Using haplotype population pairwise Φ ST tests, we analyzed possible phylogeographic breaks that were previously proposed based on other reef organisms. We found support for the Bahamas/Turks/Caicos versus Caribbean break (Φ ST = 0.12) but not for the Northwestern Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean, or US East Coast versus Bahamas breaks. The Northern Region had higher variation and more haplotypes, supporting introductions of at least five haplotypes to the region. Our wide-ranging samples showed that a lower-frequency haplotype in the Northern Region dominated the Southern Region and suggested multiple introductions, possibly to the south. We tested multiple scenarios of phylogeographic structure with analyses of molecular variance and found support for a Northern and Southern Region split at the Bahamas/Turks/Caicos versus Caribbean break (percentage of variation among regions = 8.49 %). We found that Puerto Rico clustered with the Southern Region more strongly than with the Northern Region, as opposed to previous reports. We also found the rare haplotype H03 for the first time in the southern Caribbean (Panama), indicating that either secondary releases occurred or that the low-frequency haplotypes have had time to disperse to extreme southern Caribbean locations.


Northern Region Southern Region Haplotype Diversity Virgin Island Grand Cayman 
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.



For assistance with samples, we are indebted to J. Reid, R. Bonde, A. Daniels (USGS); D. Chin and student volunteers from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico; J. Marsh and the Reef Raiders Dive Club of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; R. D’ Leon, manager of Bonaire Marine National Park. M. Davis provided laboratory assistance. R. Butterfield assisted with editing. P. Schofield (USGS) provided data on red lionfish sightings. A. Benson (USGS) constructed figures based on lionfish sighting data. W. Freshwater and one anonymous reviewer greatly improved this manuscript. This article does not contain any studies with live animals performed by any of the authors. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • John S. S. Butterfield
    • 1
  • Edgardo Díaz-Ferguson
    • 2
  • Brian R. Silliman
    • 3
  • Jonathan W. Saunders
    • 4
  • Dayne Buddo
    • 5
  • Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni
    • 6
  • Linda Searle
    • 7
  • Aarin C. Allen
    • 1
  • Margaret E. Hunter
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveySoutheast Ecological Science CenterGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Conservation Genetics LaboratoryWarm SpringsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Marine Ecology and ConservationDuke UniversityBeaufortUSA
  4. 4.Horticultural SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  5. 5.Centre for Marine SciencesUniversity of the West IndiesDiscovery BayJamaica
  6. 6.Centro de Conservación de Manatíes de Puerto RicoUniversidad Interamericana de Puerto RicoBayamónUSA
  7. 7.ECOMARBelize CityBelize

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