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Indo-Pacific lionfish are larger and more abundant on invaded reefs: a comparison of Kenyan and Bahamian lionfish populations


The invasion by Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) of the western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico is emerging as a major threat to coral reef communities across the region. Comparing native and introduced populations of invasive species can reveal shifts in ecology and behaviour that can accompany successful invasions. Using standardized field surveys replicated at multiple sites in Kenya and the Bahamas, we present the first direct comparisons of lionfish density, body size, biomass and behaviour between native and invaded coral reefs. We found that lionfish occur at higher densities with larger body sizes and total biomass on invaded Bahamian coral reefs than the ecologically equivalent species (P. miles) does on native Kenyan reefs. However, the combined average density of the five lionfish species (Pterois miles, P. antennata, P. radiata, Dendrochirus brachypterus and D. zebra) on Kenyan reefs was similar to the density of invasive lionfish in the Bahamas. Understanding the ecological processes that drive these differences can help inform the management and control of invasive lionfish.

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Permissions to conduct field research were provided by the Kenya Ministry of Science and Technology and the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources. Thank you to Bruce Philips at Buccaneer Diving and the Kenya Wildlife Service for logistical support in Kenya, and to Stuart Cove Dive Bahamas, Lad Akins and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, Lindsay Jacobs and Susan Reigner for logistical support and field assistance in the Bahamas. ESD, SJG and IMC were supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC); JKO was supported by a Conservation Leadership Grant through the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.

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Correspondence to Emily S. Darling.

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Darling, E.S., Green, S.J., O’Leary, J.K. et al. Indo-Pacific lionfish are larger and more abundant on invaded reefs: a comparison of Kenyan and Bahamian lionfish populations. Biol Invasions 13, 2045–2051 (2011).

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  • Comparative studies
  • Exotic species
  • Lionfish
  • Ecological release
  • Native-invasive comparison
  • Size release