General Information on the Lionfish

There are several different types of lionfish as they belong to a number of poisonous marine fish of the Scorpaenidae family. Some of the informal names for family members include scorpionfish, firefish, dragonfish, turkeyfish, and stingfish.
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Lionfish have a vividly striped body with flamboyant long pectoral fins, and are native to the Indian Pacific oceanic region that extends from western Australia and Malaysia east to french Polynesia and the Pitcairn Islands. In addition, the range extends north to southern Japan and southern Korea, and south to parts of coastal Australia.  Lionfish have also recently been discovered off the coast of Cozumel, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Belize, Roatan, Puerto Rico, and Cuba with reported sitings as of 2010.  Due to their relatively recent introduction, lionfish have been spotted in the warmer coral regions of the eastern Atlantic Ocean, around the Azores, and extending into the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Caribbean Sea.

NOAA researchers  have  determined  that  lionfish reach sexual  maturity  within  two  years  and  spawn multiple times during each spawning season producing up to 30,000 eggs. They are believed to spend the winter from North Carolina to the Bahamas with juveniles found as far north as Rhode Island during the summer months.  The largest species can grow up to 15 inches long, although an average length is about 1 foot.  An adult lionfish can weigh up to 2.6 lbs. While many can be seen out in the open, just as many will hide under ledges and in small underwater caves.  Divers hunting for lobster are highly at risk of being stung by the lionfish as they hide in the same typical locations as lobster.  Their lifespan in the wild is around 15 years.

According  to USGS, recent  genetic  work  has  revealed  that  the  Atlantic  population  of  lionfish  are comprised primarily of Pterois volitans (red lionfish) with a smaller number of Pterois miles (devil firefish). The red lionfish have greatly elongated dorsal-fin spines, and the membranes of all fins are often spotted. The body is white or cream coloured with red to reddish-brown vertical stripes. The vertical stripes alternate from wide to very thin with the thin stripes being more numerous and sometimes merge along the flank to form a V-shape.

The closely-related species devil firefish are similar to the lionfish. The devil firefish are found primarily in Indian Ocean and Red Sea as opposed to the lionfish which are predominantly a Pacific species; however, its range extends to Sumatra which is a large island in the western part of Indonesia where the two species co-exist. Although they appear very similar to the lionfish, the devil firefish have fewer dorsal- and anal-fin rays. The devil firefish generally have 10 dorsal-fin rays and 6 anal-fin rays, whereas the lionfish usually have 11 dorsal-fin rays and 7 anal-fin rays.

The Vone Research divers video taped this little guy on June 6, 2010.   He met his demise with the business end of a Riffe. His body was about 3" across and 1" high.
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