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



4 Responses to “SW11 Can Blue Cornetfish be used as Biocontrol?”

  1.   Ming Ming Wang Says:

    I am curious as to how the size and shape of the aquarium will influence the usefulness of the results from this study. Ultimately, won’t the only habitat that the effects of the Cornetfish will matter in be the ocean, which as far as is concerned for fish, has no boundaries similar to those you would find in aquariums? However, I think the project is still a good idea, since lionfish are usually apex predators, so it is difficult to find a species that will prey on them in their invaded habitats. It would also be nice to know what is expected to happen in these experiments and what the future plans are for further studies.

  2.   Michael Motro Says:

    Lionfishes inhabit reefs and shallow shelves in the ocean, as do most of their prey and the blue-spotted cornetfish’s prey, so some kinds of physical boundaries are necessary to simulate the real environment. On the other hand, the test area must be large enough that the cornetfish can sneak behind the lionfish and bypass the spine defense.

  3.   Genesis Garcia Says:

    I ran into this article about Lionfish and how they are effecting the native species in Florida Keys and became interested in the subject. I’ve read that the only thing that has been successfully done to decrease the Lionfish population is creating competitions to see who can kill and catch the most Lionfish. as i continued researching I ran into your article about the blue cornet-fish that actually eats Lionfish, and became thrilled thinking that yes! there is a possible solution to saving the native species of Florida keys. Anyways I wanted to a project on the subject, how big does the aquarium physically have to be for the Cornet-fish to be comfortable? And has there been progress, can Cornet-fish possibly be the solution to the Lion-fish invasion in the Florida keys?

  4.   Ming Leung Says:

    …Actually, I think that using Cornetfish to decrease the Lionfish population is a very unlikely control method. As I mentioned before, Blue-Spotted Cornetfish has a voracious and varied appetite, already known to eat fishes from 41 different taxa and is an invasive species in the Mediterranean. If the Cornetfish is released into the Florida Keys, there is a very high possibility that it will eat more native fishes than Lionfishes. An invasion of Blue Spotted Cornefish on top of the invasive Lionfish is the last thing we need.

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