Common Lionfish, Pterois volitans (Linnaeus 1758)


Other Names: Butterfly Cod, Butterfly-cod, Featherfins, Fire Fish, Lionfish, Ornate Butterfly-cod, Red Firefish, Scorpion-cod, Turkeyfish, Turkey-fish, Zebrafish

A Lionfish, Pterois volitans, at North Solitary Island, New South Wales, December 2015. Source: Ian Shaw / iNaturalist.org. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

Summary:

This striking scorpionfish is an active predator that stalks its prey with its pectoral fins outstretched.

Identifying features:

  • Body with distinctive irregular reddish bands on a white to cream background
  • First dorsal fin with very long spines, fin membranes transparent with rows of dark spots
  • Pectoral fins very long and fan-like, with rays extending well beyond the membranes
  • Lateral line usually with a row of white spots
  • Head with fleshy antenna and numerous fleshy appendages.
  • The fin spines a highly venomous and can inflict excruciatingly painful puncture wounds.

    The Common Lionfish is highly invasive in the Western Atlantic, and is having a devastating effect on reef fish populations and the corals themselves.

    Visit the Arkive site for images and videos of Common Lionfish.

    High speed video of a Common Lionfish suction feeding - played back in slow motion.


    Cite this page as:
    Bray, D.J. 2017, Pterois volitans in Fishes of Australia, accessed 20 Nov 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/2113

    Common Lionfish, Pterois volitans (Linnaeus 1758)

    More Info


    Distribution

    Known in Australian waters from about Rottnest Island (Western Australia) around the tropical north to southern New South Wales; also Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, reefs in the Coral Sea, the Lord Howe Island region and Norfolk Island. 

    Elsewhere, widespread in the tropical Indo-West Pacific, from Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean, to French Polynesia and the Line Islands, north to southern Japan, and south to northern New Zealand.

    The Common Lionfish inhabits lagoons and seaward reefs, from shallow inshore waters to dpeths of almost 130 m in Australia.

    Feeding

    This voracious predator feeds mostly at night by stalking and cornering its prey with its huge outstretched pectoral fins. Prey includes fishes and crustaceans.

    Biology

    Most spines have venom glands at the base and operate like a hypodermic syringe. When the spine is depressed through contact, venom containing a neurotoxin is released into the puncture wound.

    Remarks

    The Common Lionfish has been introduced into the Western Atlantic, and is now well-established in a wide area from Cape Hatteras to Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico and the Carribean.

    The species is a highly invasive voracious predator, preying on reef fishes unaccustomed to lionfishes.

    By severely reducing the population of herbivores, lionfishes in the Atlantic are also having a devastating affect on reefs which are being smothered by algae.

    Species Citation

    Gasterosteus volitans Linnaeus 1758, Systema Naturae 1: 296. Type locality: Ambon Island, Indonesia

    Author

    Bray, D.J. 2017

    Common Lionfish, Pterois volitans (Linnaeus 1758)

    References


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    Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

    Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21

    Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1988. Fishes of Christmas Island Indian Ocean. Christmas Island Natural History Association, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, 6798, Australia. 197 p.

    Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.

    Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

    Barbour, A.B., M.S. Allen, T.K. Frazer, & K.D. Sherman. 2011. Evaluating the Potential Efficacy of Invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans) Removals. PLoS One 6(5): e19666.

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    Quick Facts


    CAAB Code:37287040

    Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

    Danger:Highly venomous spines

    Depth:1-128 m

    Feeding:Voracious active predator

    Fishing:Aquarium fish

    Max Size:38 cm TL

    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map