Today’s #fishyfriday post is the lionfish, brought to you by one of my many visits to the New England Aquarium.

Lionfish swimming in the tank at the New England Aquarium

Lionfish are native fish to the Indo-Pacific oceans, but are now an invasive marine species along parts of the US coast—specifically along the southeast coast, the Gulf of Mexico and then down to the Caribbean. It’s speculated that humans no longer wanting their lionfish in their saltwater aquariums dumped them into the closest saltwater they could find. Since there are no native of the lionfish found in the Atlantic and Gulf waters, they have managed to establish themselves.

Marine scientists are studying the lionfish in the Atlantic and Gulf areas to help determine the exact impact they will have on the native plants and animals, since it is almost impossible to get rid of introduced marine species after a prolong period of time (i.e. after they manage to establish themselves).

What are some other interesting facts about the lionfish?

They have a large appetite, where their stomachs can expand to up to 30x their normal size after eating.

They reproduce year round—meaning a mature female could release approximately 2 million eggs a year.

They have spines that once they puncture someone (or something) with them, the pressure of the puncture allows for toxin to be released from the venom gland on along their backbone.

If one removes the spines of the lionfish—they are then safe to consume (as they are venomous and not poisonous).

There is no anti-toxin for a lionfish sting—you would need to remove the spine & soak the wound in hot water (~114F), and the pain hopefully will go away within a few days.

Research has been done to show that the toxin of the lionfish seems to target nerve cells that relay pain signals. The scientists now want to look at the toxin at a molecular level so they can determine how the native predators of lionfish are able to eat them and not suffer any side effects, in addition to trying to figure out an antidote for the toxin.

One thing I do know–I’m also going to pay more attention to the signs about what fish are in what exhibit–I have a lot of cool pictures, but I have no idea what species of fish they are–but I’m going to work on identifying them. Will have to see what I manage for next week’s edition of Fishy Friday.