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Predator-prey interactions between native snappers (Family: Lutjanidae) and juvenile red lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Western Pacific

Wilms, T.J.G. (2017) Predator-prey interactions between native snappers (Family: Lutjanidae) and juvenile red lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Western Pacific. Master's Thesis / Essay, Marine Biology.

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Over three decades ago, two species of lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) native to the Indo-West Pacific were introduced to the Western Atlantic and have since become widespread and invasive. Their impact on local reef fish populations has been devastating, leading to a substantial decline in ecosystem health. In contrast, lionfish are relatively rare in the Indo-West Pacific for which the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Biological resistance possibly plays an important role in stabilizing lionfish populations in their native range, yet natural predators remain largely unknown. In an effort to contribute towards filling this knowledge gap, I conducted laboratory predation trials in the Western Pacific using juvenile lionfish and three native snapper species, which are common meso-predators and have been suggested as a potential biological control for lionfish. Snappers showed signs of indifference and avoidance behaviour when presented with juvenile lionfish (in a transparent tube) in a single prey-choice experiment. After adding a natural prey species (Gambusia sp.) in a double prey-choice setup, snappers actively attempted strikes towards the Gambusia, yet never towards lionfish. In addition, snappers never shared shelter with free-swimming lionfish and mainly kept a distance, suggesting a combination of visual and chemical cues causing lionfish avoidance. In turn, lionfish showed no response when snappers were nearby. Instead, lionfish remained mostly stationary which suggests that lionfish either do not recognize snappers as a threat or rely heavily on their venomous defensive mechanism. These results indicate that snappers do not readily prey upon juvenile lionfish in their native range and congeneric species in the Western Atlantic are unlikely to be an effective biological control there in the near future.

Item Type: Thesis (Master's Thesis / Essay)
Degree programme: Marine Biology
Thesis type: Master's Thesis / Essay
Language: English
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 08:32
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2018 08:32

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