Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ABC Wednesday: L is for Lionfish

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A Broadbarred Firefish or Lionfish (Pterois antennata), one of a number of lionfish species. They all have those impressive fins and the long barbs that can cause painful wounds in humans. The spines are also venomous, if you get stung, it will be an excruciating experience, but usually not deadly. Heat destroys the venom, so often the wound is soaked in hot water (absolutely go to a hospital if you do get stung!). The colourful markings and the strange shape help make the fish almost invisible in the water, especially when they move between corals.

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a red of common lionfish (Pterois volitans)
Lionfish are predators and feed on smaller fish. They use their big fins to drive the fish before them and then suddenly open their mouth wide, sucking their prey in. Here's a video. The fins and special swim bladders also give them excellent control over their movements in the water

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Since they have almost no predators themselves, lionfish turned into an invasive species when they were introduced to the Atlantic and Caribbean. They can also breed once a month, all year round. Here's a photo of a baby lionfish - it will grow to a size of about 40cm, weigh almost half a kilo and may reach an age of 15 years.

See what else L stands for with ABC Wednesday
Photos were taken at Hagenbecks Tierpark, published with kind permission.

Sources and further reading:
Arkive
Fishbase
Wikipedia

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