The Red Lionfish, Pterois volitans, is a venomous fish native to the Indo-Pacific that was imported to the U.S. as an aquarium attraction and accidentally released into the wild. By now, it has invaded the Carribeans and the southern Atlantic Coast.
To reduce the Red Lionfish’s damage on the ecosystem, there have been many attempts to limit its spread. However, Lionfish’s habitat, the sea, makes chemical control ineffective and its poisonous spines leave the Lionfish with no predators. Currently, the only method to slow the lionfish’s spread so far is commercial fishing by popularizing lionfish as a food choice.
Recently, there has been a fish found that could tolerate the Red Lionfish’s poisonous spines. The Blue-Spotted Cornetfish, Fistularia commersonii, has been seen to prey on a similar lionfish, Pterois miles, by eating the fish tail first to avoid its poisonous spines. It may be possible to use the Blue-Spotted Cornetfish to prey on the Red Lionfish as a form of bio-control.
However, the Blue-Spotted Cornetfish has a voracious and varied appetite. In the Mediterranean, the Blue-Spotted Cornetfish is an invasive species, eating fishes from 41 different taxa (Bariche et al). If it were to be released in the Atlantic, there is a possibility that the Cornetfish would preferentially eat native fish, which would damage the native ecosystem further.
Thus, Michael Motro proposes to use two aquariums to study the feeding habits of the cornetfish. In one tank, Michael will put the Cornetfish, several native fishes of the Carribean and Atlantic, and the Red Lionfish. This will test whether the Blue-Spotted Cornetfish dietary preferences.
In the second, he will mix the Blue Cornetfish with a species which it is known to often feed on, as a control method. Since the Blue-Spotted Cornetfish uses many different tactics to prey on fish, such as ambushing P. Miles from behind to avoid its poisonous spines, Michael Mojo believes that the size and shape of the aquarium can have unexpected effects on its diet.
1. Bariche et al. Diet composition of the Lessepsian bluespotted cornetfish Fistularia commersonii in the eastern Mediterranean. DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0426.2008.01202.x