Earth Healthy Planet

Lionfish Outcompete the Natives on Coral Reefs

Lionfish memo to coral reefs in the Bahamas: There’s a new predator in town.

(Illustration: Santiago Uceda)

Lionfish memo to coral reefs in the Bahamas: There’s a new predator in town. Native to the South Pacific, the invasive lionfish is reducing the abundance of native fishes on coral reefs in the Bahamas (see “Deep Ecology,” in Terra, spring 2008). OSU zoologist Mark Hixon leads a team of graduate students and other collaborators working to understand the impacts as well as the factors that naturally control this voracious predator in its native habitat.

In lab and field studies conducted in 2010, they are comparing Bahamian reef systems with and without lionfish and have demonstrated that lionfish outcompete Nassau grouper, which are native to the Bahamas, for access to reef shelters. Lionfish do not eat small grouper, and grouper do not affect lionfish as either a predator or a habitat competitor.

Ongoing studies include lionfish behavior and ecology in the invaded and the native ranges and daily activity observations, as well as patterns of growth and survival.


See Mark Hixon’s 2010 “Oceans of Life” presentation, including videos of lionfish feeding.

For information about supporting research and teaching through faculty endowments, contact the Oregon State University Foundation, 1-800-354-7281 or visit

By Nick Houtman

Nick Houtman is director of research communications at OSU and edits Terra, a world of research and creativity at Oregon State University. He has experience in weekly and daily print journalism and university science writing. A native Californian, he lived in Wisconsin and Maine before arriving in Corvallis in 2005.

One reply on “Lionfish Outcompete the Natives on Coral Reefs”

I am very interested in your work and study of Lionfish. I, along with a growing number of fellow sucba divers in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, C.A. has formed an organization who’s purpose is education about, and the eradication of Lionfish in our area, our reef and the Belize region.
We recently had a one day derby where close to 800 Lionfish were speared and brought in by four 6 person teams. We are promoting their consumption, maintaining counts, organizing hunts, etc.

Would our data, numbers, sizes, locations, etc.that we are collecting be useful to you? How can we assist you in your research? Is there other information that we can provide? Can I call and where to discuss this in more detail? I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
Barris J. Evulich

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