Skip to main content

Broad salinity tolerance in the invasive lionfish Pterois spp. may facilitate estuarine colonization

Abstract

The ongoing invasion of non-native Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois spp.) represents a significant ecological threat throughout the Western Atlantic and Caribbean. As a generalist species, lionfish have been able to rapidly colonize a wide variety of ecosystems, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, the sea floor at depths as great as 300 m, and even brackish estuaries. While lionfish have been encountered in a number of estuarine systems, the spatial distribution of lionfish in estuaries is likely limited by the species’ ability to tolerate low salinities. Here, we experimentally identify minimum salinity tolerance in lionfish by measuring survival salinity minimum—the lowest salinity at which all individuals survive for 48 h. Additionally, we examine whether long-term exposure to low (but sub-lethal) salinities has negative effects on lionfish. Field observations in the Loxahatchee River estuary (Jupiter, FL) showed that lionfish can survive brief exposure to salinities as low as 1 ‰. At one estuarine location, fish survived exposure to salinity fluctuations of ~28 ‰ every 6 h for several days. In laboratory trials, survival salinity minimum for lionfish was 5 ‰; however, some individuals survived at 4 ‰ for up to 94 h before dying. Lionfish that were held at 7 ‰ for 28 days showed no differences in mortality, behavior or growth, when compared to control fish held at 35 ‰ (typical ocean salinity). This broad salinity tolerance may allow lionfish to colonize estuaries throughout their invaded range, and may facilitate dispersal across the Amazon-Orinoco plume. Because of the ecological and economic importance of estuaries, this facet of the lionfish invasion warrants further study.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  • Albins MA, Hixon MA (2008) Invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans reduce recruitment of Atlantic coral-reef fishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 367:233–238

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Albins M, Hixon M (2013) Worst case scenario: potential long-term effects of invasive predatory lionfish (Pterois volitans) on Atlantic and Caribbean coral-reef communities. Environ Biol Fish 96:1151–1157

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Albins MA, Lyons PJ (2012) Invasive red lionfish Pterois volitans blow directed jets of water at prey fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 448:1–5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barbour AB, Montgomery ML, Adamson AA, Diaz-Ferguson E, Silliman BR (2010) Mangrove use by the invasive lionfish Pterois volitans. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 401:291–294

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beck MW, Heck KL Jr, Able KW, Childers DL, Eggleston DB, Gillanders BM, Halpern B, Hays CG, Hoshino K, Minello TJ, Orth RJ, Sheridan PF, Weinstein MP (2001) The identification, conservation, and management of estuarine and marine nurseries for fish and invertebrates. Bioscience 51:633–641

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Biggs CR, Olden JD (2011) Multi-scale habitat occupancy of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) in coral reef environments of Roatan, Honduras. Aquat Invasions 6:447–453

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cheng SY, Chen CS, Chen JC (2013) Salinity and temperature tolerance of brown-marbled grouper Epinephelus fuscoguttatus. Fish Physiol Biochem 39:277–286. doi:10.1007/s10695-012-9698-x

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Claydon JAB, Calosso MC, Traiger SB (2012) Progression of invasive lionfish in seagrass, mangrove and reef habitats. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 448:119–129. doi:10.3354/meps09534

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Côté IM, Green SJ, Hixon MA (2013a) Predatory fish invaders: insights from Indo-Pacific lionfish in the western Atlantic and Caribbean. Biol Conserv 164:50–61

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Côté IM, Green SJ, Morris JA Jr, Akins JL, Steinke D (2013b) Diet richness of invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish revealed by DNA barcoding. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 472:249–256. doi:10.3354/meps09992

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Courrat A, Lobry J, Nicolas D, Laffargue P, Amara R, Lepage M, Girardin M, Le Pape O (2009) Anthropogenic disturbance on nursery function of estuarine areas for marine species. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 81:179–190. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2008.10.017

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fishelson L (1997) Experiments and observations on food consumption, growth and starvation in Dendrochirus brachypterus and Pterois volitans (Pteroinae, Scorpaenidae). Environ Biol Fish 50:391–403

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • García LN, Pesq I, Sierra CL, Perez J, Esquivel F, Chapman FA (2013) Osmoregulation of juvenile marine goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) in low-salinity water. Rev Colomb Cienc Pecuarias 26:127–135

    Google Scholar 

  • Green S, Akins J, Côté I (2011) Foraging behaviour and prey consumption in the Indo-Pacific lionfish on Bahamian coral reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 433:159–167

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Green SJ, Akins JL, Maljkovic A, Côté IM (2012) Invasive lionfish drive Atlantic coral reef fish declines. PLoS One 7:e32596

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jian CY, Cheng SY, Chen JC (2003) Temperature and salinity tolerances of yellowfin sea bream, Acanthopagrus latus, at different salinity and temperature levels. Aquac Res 34:175–185. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2109.2003.00800.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jud ZR, Layman CA (2012) Site fidelity and movement patterns of invasive lionfish, Pterois spp., in a Florida estuary. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 414–415:69–74

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jud ZR, Layman CA, Lee JA, Arrington DA (2011) Recent invasion of a Florida (USA) estuarine system by lionfish Pterois volitans/P. miles. Aquat Biol 13:21–26. doi:10.3354/ab00351

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kimball ME, Miller JM, Whitfield PE, Hare JA (2004) Thermal tolerance and potential distribution of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles complex) on the east coast of the United States. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 283:269–278

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kulbicki M, Beets J, Chabanet P, Cure K, Darling E, Floeter SR, Galzin R, Green A, Harmelin-Vivien M, Hixon M, Letourneur Y, de Loma TL, McClanahan T, McIlwain J, MouTham G, Myers R, O’Leary JK, Planes S, Vigliola L, Wantiez L (2012) Distributions of Indo-Pacific lionfishes Pterois spp. in their native ranges: implications for the Atlantic invasion. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 446:189–205. doi:10.3354/meps09442

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lambert Y, Dutil JD, Munro J (1994) Effects of intermediate and low salinity conditions on growth rate and food conversion of Alantic cod (Gadus morhua). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 51:1569–1576. doi:10.1139/f94-155

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Layman CA, Allgeier JE (2012) Characterizing trophic ecology of generalist consumers: a case study of the invasive lionfish in The Bahamas. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 448:131–141

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee K, Kaneko T, Aida K (2005) Low-salinity tolerance of juvenile fugu Takifugu rubripes. Fish Sci 71:1324–1331

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lonnstedt OM, McCormick MI (2013) Ultimate predators: lionfish have evolved to circumvent prey risk assessment abilities. PLoS One 8:e75781

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luiz OJ, Floeter SR, Rocha LA, Ferreira CEL (2013) Perspectives for the lionfish invasion in the South Atlantic: are Brazilian reefs protected by the currents? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 485:1–7. doi:10.3354/meps10383

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morris JA Jr, Akins JL (2009) Feeding ecology of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Bahamian archipelago. Environ Biol Fish 86:389–398. doi:10.1007/s10641-009-9538-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morris JA Jr, Whitfield PE (2009) Biology, ecology, control and management of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish: an updated integrated assessment. NOAA Tech Memorandum NOS NCCOS 99:1–57

    Google Scholar 

  • Prakash S, Balamurugan J, Kumar TTA, Balasubramanian T (2012) Invasion and abundance of reef-inhabiting fishes in the Vellar estuary, southeast coast of India, especially the lionfish Pterois volitans Linnaeus. Curr Sci India 103:941–944

    Google Scholar 

  • Valdez-Moreno M, Quintal-Lizama C, Goméz-Lozano R, Garcia-Rivas MC (2012) Monitoring an alien invasion: DNA barcoding and the identification of lionfish and their prey on coral reefs of the Mexican Caribbean. PLoS One 7:e36636

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Whitfield PE, Gardner T, Vives SP, Gilligan MR, Courtenay WR Jr, Ray GC, Hare JA (2002) Biological invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans along the Atlantic coast of North America. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 235:289–297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woo NYS, Chung KC (1995) Tolerance of Pomacanthus imperator to hypoosmotic salinities: changes in body composition and hepatic enzyme activities. J Fish Biol 47:70–81. doi:10.1006/jfbi.1995.0112

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wu RSS, Woo NYS (1983) Tolerance of hypo-osmotic salinities in 13 species of adult marine fish—implications for estuarine fish culture. Aquaculture 32:175–181. doi:10.1016/0044-8486(83)90279-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

This project was made possible by a close partnership with the Loxahatchee River District. Lauren Arrington (King’s Academy, West Palm Beach, FL) conducted preliminary laboratory experiments that helped give rise to our experimental design. We thank Joel Trexler for facilitating our use of Florida International University’s aquarium facilities and Diana Churchill for assistance during the laboratory portion of the study. Research protocols were approved by Florida International University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC-13-030-AM01), and a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Special Activities License (SAL-13-1487-SR).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zachary R. Jud.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

ESM 1

(PDF 28 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Jud, Z.R., Nichols, P.K. & Layman, C.A. Broad salinity tolerance in the invasive lionfish Pterois spp. may facilitate estuarine colonization. Environ Biol Fish 98, 135–143 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-014-0242-y

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-014-0242-y

Keywords

  • Estuary
  • Indian River Lagoon
  • Invasive marine fish
  • Lionfish
  • Pterois volitans
  • Salinity tolerance