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Lionfish, Pterois volitans

Scientific Name: Pterois volitans
Common Name(s): Lionfish, Red Lionfish, Turkey Fish, Zebra Fish


Research Summary
: Mariah T.
Researching the lionfish was difficult because most of the information I found on websites was something I already had or it was false. There are a good amount of resources but not enough specific information on this species to help me with my research.

I think the most surprising fact I found was that the lionfish prefers warm waters and not cold waters. I think the most important things about the this species that I discovered is that the lionfish is overpopulating many areas and that it may impact local tourism, which is really bad for some states and towns.

Identifying Characteristics
  • Maximum length of adults is 15".
  • Maximum adult body weight is 2.4 - 2.6 pounds.
Fins/Body Parts
  • Has an imposing fan of prickly venomous spines.
  • Venom glands are located at the base of the spines on the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins.
  • Fleshy tentacles above the eyes and below the mouth.
  • Has 18 needle-like dorsal fins.
  • Relies on camouflage and lighting fast reflects to capture prey.
  • Has distinctive maroon or brown and white stripes.

Taxonomy of Species
   Scientific Classification
 What That Classification Means
Kingdom Animalia
 Many-celled, able to move, and they eat plants or other animals.
Phylum Chordata  Animals that have a skeleton made of either bone or cartilage. They are
 distinguished by the possession of a notochord (very large cells that are
 arranged within a protective sheath) at some stage during their  
Class Actinopterygii
 Fin rays: fins are webs of skin supported by horny spines (rays), fin rays
 attach directly to the basal (bottom layer or base) skeletal elements.
Order Scorpaeniformes  Head and body tend to be spiny or have bony plates, membranes (acts
 like a boundary) between lower rays are often notched, pectoral fin (a pair
 of fins just behind the fish’s head) and caudal fin (tail fin) usually rounded.
Family  Scorpaenidae
 Scorpion fishes or rockfishes.
Genus Pterois
 Marine fish containing venom, pectoral fins  (a pair of fins just behind the
 fish’s head) are fan-shaped, and a spiky first dorsal fin.
Species volitains
 Have 13 dorsal spines, red and white stripes, feather-like pectoral rays,
 bony ridge across cheek.

Similar species include: Lionfish are related to the scorpionfish and the stone fish which are more poisonous and dangerous.

Location and Movement
Origin/ Native Range
  • Native to coral reefs in the warm tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.
  • NOAA lists native areas as western Australia, Malaysia, east to French Polynesia, the United Kingdom’s Pitcairn Islands, north to southern Japan, southern Korea, south to Lord Howe Island off the east coast of Australia, the Kermadec Islands of New Zealand. In between, the species is found throughout Micronesia.
 Thought to be first found in the Atlantic waters when Florida aquarium was damaged during
 Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Spread of Species
  • Aquariums will dump the lionfish free and that is how it has become invasive.
  • It likes warm waters and may spread as it searches for food and habitat.
Where is it now invasive?

Is this species in Maine?
Where has it been identified?
 The closest location it is to Maine is Rhode Island. This species is most likey from Florida then   
 expand into North Carolina.

Possibility of Introduction
  • Aquarium trade is the mostly the way lionfish will come to Maine.
  • Temperature increases concurrent with climate change, particularly warmer winter temperatures, may enable the future survival of lionfish in the Gulf of Maine.

Natural Environment
  • Prefers to live in coral reefs in the tropical waters.
  • Are found at depths of 1 to 1000 feet. 
  • Like to swim at night and hide during the day.
  • Will also be found in mangroves, sea grasses, corals, and artificial reefs (like shipwrecks).
Climate and Temperature Range
 Prefers to live in warm waters such as 22C and 28C.

Ecological Interactions  A carnivore and predator.
  • Gets its nutrition by consuming small fish such as shrimps and crabs.
  • Likes to eat young commercial fish such as sea bass, many of which live at the bottom reefs as  nursery grounds. It consumes these fish by using its pectoral fins to herd the fish into a small space because that makes it easier for them to be swallowed. The lionfish are also the top predators in their native habitats, but not in the Atlantic Ocean.
Consumed By
 The lionfish is thought to be consumed by the Sand tiger sharks and the grouper.

  • Impacts of the lionfish include predation, competition, and displacement of native fish.
  • Consumes over 50 species of fish including some economically and ecologically important species. 
  • Eats fish that are herbivores which may lead to over population of seaweeds and macroalgae. It will upset the biodiversity of coral reefs and the ocean floor.
 Human  Lionfish sting may cause extreme pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, nausea, numbness, joint
 pain, anxiety, headache, disorientation, dizziness, paralysis, and convulsions.
  • A very popular and common aquarium fish, especially in the U.S. 
  • May impact local tourism and diving industries because people may be afraid to swim in the waters due to this species paralyzing venom. 
  • Popular in some parts of the world as food.

  • The sand tiger shark may be helping with lionfish populations.
  • The grouper fish is a natural predator to the lionfish .
  • We can fish them out of the ocean.
  • Don't dump or release animals in different waters or ecosystems.
  • Education programs and increase awareness of ecological impacts of lionfish and human health issues.
  • Report findings of lionfish.
Chemical  N/A

Interesting Facts