ArticlePDF Available

First genetically confirmed record of the invasive devil firefish Pterois miles (Bennett, 1828) in the Mexican Caribbean


Abstract and Figures

Devil firefish Pterois miles (Bennett, 1828) is a species native to the Indo-Pacific that along with Pterois volitans (Linneaus, 1758) has been invading the western Atlantic since the 1980’s. Morphological characters, life cycle, habits, and dispersal potential of this species are very similar to those of Pterois volitans, to such extent that its taxonomic classification remains controversial. For example, the USGS database lists two species (Pterois volitans/miles) as a single one. Therefore, the probability of both species having been captured and confused is high because their identification by meristics and morphometrics is problematic. As a part of our investigation in genetic connectivity of invasive lionfish, we collected 77 specimens from Chinchorro Bank, Mexico. Identifying the samples by analysis of partial mtDNA cyt b sequences, we found that one sample corresponded to Pterois miles. The sequence of this specimen had 100% similarity to the sequence of Pterois miles specimens collected off the coast of North Carolina in 2004. This indicates that the species has extended its distribution into the Caribbean basin, but its current geographical distribution is unknown. Our results show that the presence of Pterois miles in the Caribbean appears low, approximately 1.3% of that of Pterois volitans. This study reveals the progress of the invasion of Pterois miles in the Caribbean and advocates for genetically confirmed identification and management of Pterois species.
Content may be subject to copyright.
BioInvasions Records (2017) Volume 6, Issue 2: 99–103
© 2017 The Author(s). Journal compilation © 2017 REABIC
Open Access
Rapid Communication
First genetically confirmed record of the invasive devil firefish
Pterois miles (Bennett, 1828) in the Mexican Caribbean
Irán A. Guzmán-Méndez
, Renata Rivera-Madrid
, Píndaro Díaz-Jaimes
, María del C. García-Rivas
Margarita Aguilar-Espinosa
and Jesús E. Arias-González
Laboratorio de Ecología de Ecosistemas de Arrecifes Coralinos, Departamento de Recursos del Mar, Centro de Investigación y de
Estudios Avanzados del I.P.N.- Unidad Mérida, Ant. Carr. A Progreso km 6, A.P. 73, Cordemex, 97310 Mérida, Yucatán, México
Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán, A.C. Calle 43 No. 130, Col. Chuburná de Hidalgo, C.P. 97205 Mérida, Yucatán, México
Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 70-305, México D.F.
04510, México
Comision Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Puerto Morelos. Av. Javier Rojo Gómez,
Mz. 8 Lote 4, C.P. 77580, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, México
Corresponding author
Received: 6 July 2016 / Accepted: 17 January 2017 / Published online: 8 March 2017
Handling editor: Melissa Frey
Devil firefish Pterois miles (Bennett, 1828) is a species native to the Indo-Pacific that along with Pterois volitans (Linneaus,
1758) has been invading the western Atlantic since the 1980’s. Morphological characters, life cycle, habits, and dispersal
potential of this species are very similar to those of Pterois volitans, to such extent that its taxonomic classification remains
controversial. For example, the USGS database lists two species (Pterois volitans/miles) as a single one. Therefore, the
probability of both species having been captured and confused is high because their identification by meristics and morpho-
metrics is problematic. As a part of our investigation in genetic connectivity of invasive lionfish, we collected 77 specimens
from Chinchorro Bank, Mexico. Identifying the samples by analysis of partial mtDNA cyt b sequences, we found that one
sample corresponded to Pterois miles. The sequence of this specimen had 100% similarity to the sequence of Pterois miles
specimens collected off the coast of North Carolina in 2004. This indicates that the species has extended its distribution into
the Caribbean basin, but its current geographical distribution is unknown. Our results show that the presence of Pterois miles
in the Caribbean appears low, approximately 1.3% of that of Pterois volitans. This study reveals the progress of the invasion
of Pterois miles in the Caribbean and advocates for genetically confirmed identification and management of Pterois species.
Key words: Pterois volitans, invasive species, cyt b, Coral reefs
Devil firefish Pterois miles (Bennett, 1828) is a
species native to the Indo-Pacific, described by
Bennett in 1828 (Schultz 1986). Historically, there
have been several discussions over the taxonomic
status of Pterois volitans (Linnaeus, 1758) and
Pterois miles (Smith 1957; Beaufort and Briggs 1962;
Randall 1983). However, the most recent taxonomic
treatment defines them as separate species based on
statistical analysis of meristic and morphometric
characters (Schultz 1986). A genetic analysis revealed
that these two species diverged from a common
ancestor 2.4 to 8.3 million years ago, and the
separation of their lineages is relatively recent
(Kochzius et al. 2003). Morris et al. (2011) observed
that both species have similar morphological charac-
teristics, life cycles, habits, and dispersal potential.
These similarities may cause confusion in the
identification of the two species and hinder
population studies. Molecular studies based on the
use of mitochondrial DNA are very useful in
addressing species’ identification (Freshwater et al.
2009a; Hamner et al. 2007; Kochzius et al. 2003).
I.A. Guzman-Mendez et al.
Figure 1. Site where Pterois
miles was captured on
Chinchorro Bank. The
georeferenced map shows the
location of “Baliza” reef where
the specimen was caught.
The invasion of Pterois species has been remar-
kably rapid in the Western Atlantic. Since first
reported in 1985 (Schofield 2009), Pterois volitans
has successfully established itself on most Caribbean
reefs, with a geographical distribution that ranges
from the coast of New York to Brazil (Ferreira et al.
2015). Its ability to tolerate low salinity, shallow to
deep depths, and long periods of fasting make the
probability of invasion success high in a variety of
marine and coastal environments (Kimball et al. 2004).
Similarly, Pterois miles also has a history as an inva-
sive species. During the 1950s, Pterois miles invaded
the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal (Golani
and Sonin 1992). Its presence in the Western Atlantic
was first confirmed in 2004 (Hamner et al. 2007).
To date, genetic evidence had shown that Pterois
miles was restricted to the east coast of the United
States and Bermuda (Betancur-R et al. 2011;
Freshwater et al. 2009b). However, Pterois miles is
morphologically similar to Pterois volitans, and
most individuals collected in the Caribbean have not
been analyzed using molecular markers to confirm
species identification. The main objective of this
study was to determine if the Devil firefish has
expanded its distribution into the Caribbean. Our
findings provide new insights into the population
distribution of the two invasive Pterois species.
We collected 77 specimens of Pterois spp. from the
Chinchorro Bank Reef (Figure 1) by scuba diving and
hand spears as part of our regional genetic connectivity
Figure 2. Specimen collected on “Baliza” reef and identified as
Pterois miles using molecular analysis. Photograph by Irán A.
study at LEEAC (Laboratorio de Ecología de
Ecosistemas de Arrecifes Coralinos, CINVESTAV-
Merida Unit). Measurements of fish length and weight
were obtained using a standard protocol (Hubbs and
Lagler 1958). Additionally, a piece of muscle from
the caudal peduncle of each specimen was collected,
preserved individually in 70% alcohol, and stored at
4 °C for subsequent analysis in the laboratory.
Genomic DNA was extracted from muscle tissue
using the DNeasy Blood and Tissue Kit (Qiagen-
69506) following the manufacturer’s instructions. A
fragment of the mtDNA-cyt b was amplified by PCR
reaction using cytb L (Schmidt and Gold 1993) and
R1063 (Hamner et al. 2007) primers, under the
conditions described in Hamner et al. (2007). The cyt b
First genetically confirmed record of Pterois miles in the Mexican Caribbean
Figure 3. Phylogenetic tree generated using the Neighbor-Joining method (Saitou and Nei 1987), with sum branch lengths = 0.136082
(branch lengths noted above each branch).
fragment obtained was purified with QIAquick PCR
Purification Kit (Qiagen-28106) and sent for sequen-
cing at the Clemson University Genomics Institute,
(CUGI, USA). The generated sequences were compared
and species identifications confirmed using the Basic
Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) program in
the GenBank public database.
A phylogenetic tree was generated using the
Neighbor-Joining method (Saitou and Nei 1987).
Evolutionary distances were computed using the
Maximum Composite Likelihood method (Tamura
et al. 2004) and are in units of the number of base
substitutions per site. The analysis involved 43
nucleotide sequences. Codon positions included were
1st+2nd+3rd+noncoding (all gaps and missing data
were eliminated), resulting in 726 bp in the final
dataset. All evolutionary analyses were conducted in
MEGA7 (Kumar et al. 2016).
I.A. Guzman-Mendez et al.
Of the 77 specimens collected near Chinchorro Bank,
our analyses revealed 76 Pterois volitans and one
individual of Pterois miles. The P. miles specimen
was found in a place known as “Baliza”
(18º3521.00N; 87º2458.70W; Figure 1) at a depth
of 27 m, and was an adult (Figure 2). In comparing
specimens of similar size, morphometric measure-
ments showed strong similarity between the two
Pterois species (Table 1). The partial mtDNA-cyt b
sequence generated from the Pterois miles specimen
was 783 bp (Genbank accession no. KU833279). This
sequence was 99% similar to the complete mitochon-
drial genome of a Red Sea Pterois miles specimen
(Genbank accession no. LK022697.1), 100% similar
to the partial cyt b sequence from North Carolina
specimens (Genbank accession no. EF209676.1), but
only 94% similar to the partial cyt b sequence
haplotype AA of Pterois volitans (Genbank accession
no. DQ482606.1). The phylogenetic tree showed
that the sequence KU833279 corresponded to the
Pterois miles clade (Figure 3). Average genetic distance
(Kimura 2-parameter model) between Pterois miles
and Pterois volitans was 0.075.
The invasion of lionfish into the Western Atlantic
and the Caribbean has been unprecedented and rapid
(Schofield 2009). While Pterois volitans has been
reported widely, P. miles has gone nearly undetected,
except for a few records in North Carolina and
Bermuda (Hamner et al. 2007; Freshwater et al.
2009a; Betancur-R et al. 2011). To date, P. miles
had never been documented in the Caribbean. And
prior to this study, there had been only one lionfish
reported anecdotally from Chinchorro Bank, but the
record was without supporting evidence, and the
individual was not identified to species (USGS 2016).
Our results provide the first scientifically verified
and molecularly identified records of P. volitans and
P. miles from Chinchorro Bank, and the first
confirmed report of P. miles in the Caribbean.
The presence of P. miles in the Mexican Caribbean
is a significant expansion of its previously known
distribution along the east coast of the United States
and Bermuda (Betancur-R et al. 2011). There are two
reasons why this species may have gone undetected
until now. First, it is extremely difficult to differen-
tiate P. miles and P. volitans, given their striking
morphological similarity. The USGS-NAS (2016)
lists the two species together as “Pterois volitans/
miles” for this very reason. The only way to identify
the species in their non-native range with accuracy
Table 1. Morphometric measurements of Pterois miles and
P. volitans of similar size. NA = data not available due to loss
during capture.
Morphological traits P. miles P. volitans
Weight 0.576 kg 0.562 kg
Total length 36.5 cm 36.6 cm
Fork length 78 % 76.5 %
Head length 25.6 % 25.7 %
Pectoral fin length 41.9 % 42.4 %
Length of the pelvic fins 29 % 30 %
Max body height 29.3 % 22.7 %
Min body height 7.2 % 7.7 %
Max height of anal fin 19.3 % 14.1 %
Length of dorsal fin NA 13.9 %
Length second dorsal fin 23.4 % 16.8 %
Eye diameter 4.1 % 4.3 %
Length of mouth 9.8 % 10.2 %
Snout length 14.1 % 13.5 %
and consistency is through molecular analysis
(Freshwater et al. 2009a, 2009b; Hamner et al. 2007)
as demonstrated here by our findings. Second, based
on the sample size of lionfish collected from
Chinchorro Bank (77 individuals), the abundance
of P. miles may be very low (1.3%) relative to that
of P. volitans. It remains unclear whether this result
reflects the persistence of P. miles at small
population levels or alternatively, the recent arrival
of a species that has yet to increase in abundance.
Additional molecular studies are needed to fully
understand each species distribution, the connectivity
between populations, and the dynamics of dispersal
throughout the invaded range. For example, our cyt
b results show that the mitochondrial haplotype of
the sample found in Chinchorro Bank corresponds
100% to the cyt b sequences of P. miles collected in
North Carolina. Although it remains uncertain, the
arrival of this species to Chinchorro Bank may be
highly influenced by currents and mesoscale
processes that have fostered larvae transport, slowly
broadening the distribution of both species.
We thank the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia
(CONACyT) for financial support (Grant 215434) and the National
Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) for logistical
support in the sampling at Chinchorro Bank, as well as ECORED
(194539). Our special gratitude to the staff of Banco Chinchorro
Biosphere Reserve and to the fishermen who participated in the
collection of samples. A special mention to Javier Salas and his
XTC Dive Center team who provided us with the boat and diving
equipment. We are much obliged to Dr. D. Wilson Freshwater for
his valuable contributions, suggestions, and critical review of the
manuscript. The authors would also like to thank anonymous
reviewers for improving the manuscript.
First genetically confirmed record of Pterois miles in the Mexican Caribbean
Arenholz DW, Morris JA (2010) Larval duration of the lionfish,
Pterois volitans along the Bahamian Archipelago. Environ-
mental Biology of Fishes 88: 305–309,
Beaufort LF, De Briggs JC (1962) The fishes of the Indo-Australian
archipelago. XI. Brill, Leiden, 481 pp
Betancur-R R, Hines A, Acero A, Ortí G, Wilbur AE, Freshwater
DW (2011) Reconstructing the lionfish invasion: insights into
Greater Caribbean biogeography. Journal of Biogeography 38:
Ferreira CEL, Luiz OJ, Floeter SR, Lucena MB, Barbosa MC, Rocha
CR, Rocha LA (2015) First record of invasive lionfish (Pterois
volitans) for the Brazilian Coast. PLoS ONE 10: 1–5,
Freshwater DW, Hamner RM, Parham S, Wilbur AE (2009a)
Molecular evidence that the lionfishes Pterois miles and Pterois
volitans are distinct species. Journal of the North Carolina
Academy of Sciences 125: 39–46
Freshwater DW, Hines A, Parham S, Wilbur A, Sabaoun M,
Woodhead J, Paris CB (2009b) Mitochondrial control region
sequence analyses indicate dispersal from the US East Coast as
the source of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans
in the Bahamas. Marine Biology 156: 1213–1221,
Golani D, Sonin O (1992) Pterois miles. Japanese Journal of
Ichthyology 39: 167–169
Hamner RM, Freshwater DW, Whitfield PE (2007) Mitochondrial
cytochrome b analysis reveals two invasive lionfish species with
strong founder effects in the western Atlantic. Journal of Fish
Biology 71: 214–222,
Hubbs CL, Lagler KF (1958) Fishes of the Great Lakes region
(revised). Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 26: 1–213
Kimball M, Miller J, Whitfield P, Hare J (2004) Thermal tolerance
and potential distribution of invasive lionfish (Pterois
volitans/miles complex) on the east coast of the United States.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 283: 269–278,
Kochzius M, Söller R, Khalaf MA, Blohm D (2003) Molecular
phylogeny of the lionfish genera Dendrochirus and Pterois
(Scorpaenidae, Pteroinae) based on mitochondrial DNA
sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 28: 396–403,
Kumar S, Stecher G, Tamura K (2016) MEGA7: Molecular
Evolutionary Genetics Analysis version 7.0 for bigger datasets.
Molecular Biology and Evolution 33: 1870–1874,
Morris JAJ, Sullivan CV, Govoni JJ (2011) Oogenesis and spawn
formation in the invasive lionfish, Pterois miles and Pterois
volitans. Scientia Marina 75: 147–154,
Randall JE (1983) Red Sea reef fishes. Immel, London, 192 pp
Schmidt TR, Gold JR (1993) Complete sequence of the mito-
chondrial cytochrome b gene in the cherryfin shiner, Lythurus
roseipinnis (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Copeia 1993: 880–883,
Saitou N, Nei M (1987) The neighbor-joining method: A new
method for reconstructing phylogenetic trees. Molecular Biology
and Evolution 4: 406–425
Schofield PJ (2009) Geographical extent and chronology of the
invasion of non-native lionfish (Pterois volitans [Linnaeus 1758]
and P. miles [Bennett 1828]) in the Western North Atlantic and
Caribbean Sea. Aquatic Invasions 4: 473–479,
Schultz ET (1986) Pterois volitans and Pterois miles: Two valid
species. Copeia 1986: 686–690,
Smith JLB (1957) Fishes of Aldabra. Part VIII. Journal of Natural
History 10: 395–400,
Tamura K, Nei M, Kumar S (2004) Prospects for inferring very large
phylogenies by using the neighbor-joining method. Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 101: 11030–11035,
USGS-NAS (2016) United States Geological Survey -
Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database. Gainesville, Florida. (accessed 4 July 2016)
... In the western Atlantic Ocean, the introduction of lionfish (Pterois volitans, Pterois miles) occurred off the coast of Florida, USA in the mid-1980s, possibly introduced from aquaria into coral reefs (Morris and Akins 2009). The population of P. volitans spread along the southeast coast of the U.S., the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Brazil, while P. miles reports have been restricted to higher latitudes, such as North Carolina and Bermuda (Hamner et al. 2007;Betancur-R et al. 2011), although there are also reports in the Caribbean (Guzmán-Méndez et al. 2017). In the Mediterranean Sea, P. miles was introduced in 1991 due to an expansion via the Suez Canal (Golani and Sonin 1992), with more recent sightings off the coast of Turkey, Greece, Levant, and Cyprus (Bariche et al. 2013;Kletou et al. 2016). ...
Full-text available
Populations of lionfish (Pterois volitans Linnaeus, 1758; Pterois miles Bennett, 1828) have expanded in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea since their introduction and have become a biological invasive species. This invasion has impacted these regions' marine biodiversity, and their impact is expected to increase due to climate change. Our work evaluated the current and future potential risk of lionfish populations during climate change scenarios based on the Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) model. MaxEnt was used to predict lionfish populations' suitability for current conditions and under two Representative Concentration Pathway scenarios (RCP 4.5 and 8.5) for 2040-2050 and 2090-2100. Lionfish had an estimated range of physiological tolerances from 10-15 °C to 30 °C. According to our analyses, lionfish can live off the coasts of western Africa, the Americas, and the Mediterranean Sea. Under mild warming scenarios, suitable conditions for lionfish could expand to higher latitudes due to their high thermal range and salinity tolerance. Our models predicted that lionfish could reach the coasts of France, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, South Africa, and New Zealand, among other regions, under warming scenarios. However, under the warmest scenario (RCP 8.5), tropical latitudes may become less suitable for lionfish, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. Our results may be useful for resource managers to foresee where to increase efforts in lionfish fisheries and consumption.
... Firstly, P. volitans and P. miles are very similar morphologically (Schultz, 1986;, being only appropriately differentiated in their non-native distribution range through molecular analysis (Hamner, Freshwater & Whtifield, 2007;Burford-Reiskind et al., 2019). Secondly, it is probable that the sampled individuals belong to the species P. volitans, which has been the species identified in the close Cuban MPA Guanahacabibes National Park (Labastida et al., 2015), and it has been more abundant than P. miles in the Greater Caribbean (Hamner, Freshwater & Whtifield, 2007;Betancur-R et al., 2011;Guzmán-Méndez et al., 2017). Therefore, we assume conservatively, that the equation provided in this study can be valid for P. volitans/P. ...
Full-text available
Cuba's shelf has been invaded by lionfish (Pterois volitans/Pterois miles), which have become established over the archipelago, including areas of natural importance. The present study aims to evaluate morphometric features of lionfish and to explore the relationship between lionfish size and diet composition in different habitats in the Punta Frances National Park, Cuba. In total 620 lionfish were captured at 29 sites between 2013 and 2016. Lionfish stomachs were removed and their contents were analyzed using frequency and numerical methods. The length-weight allomentric relationship was obtained, and a decrease in lionfish sizes was shown over time, likely due to the extractions carried out. The diet was composed by fishes, crustaceans, mollusks and phytobenthos, with a predominance of fishes. Lionfish caught in seagrass beds tended to be smaller in size and consumed fewer fishes and more crustaceans than those captured in coral reefs. A positive correlation was observed between lionfish body size and gape size; however, no significant correlation was detected between lionfish body size and prey size. Larger lionfish tended to consume more fishes, while crustaceans were more significant in the diet of juvenile lionfish. This is the first study that examines the feeding habits of lionfish in the Punta Frances MPA, and provides valuable information on lionfish inhabiting this MPA across four years of sampling. Furthermore, this research may serve as a baseline for subsequent evaluations of lionfish impact and management actions in the area.
... Lionfishes (Pterois volitans and P. miles) are scorpaenids native to Indo-Pacific coral reefs, escaped from the aquarium trade and presently invading the western Atlantic (Semmens et al. 2004). In the western Caribbean, P. miles is known from very few records (Guzmán-Méndez et al. 2017), but lionfish has become abundant and widespread from subtropical USA to Brazil (Ferreira et al. 2015). They are generalist predators that consume a great diversity and abundance of mostly demersal fishes , in a variety of habitats (Jud et al. 2014). ...
Full-text available
Impact of invasive species on native biota may be due to predation, competition for space or food, or indirect effects. Lionfish (Pterois volitans), invasive in the western Atlantic, is a voracious generalist predator, so it is expected to have a significant trophic overlap with native fishes of comparable size and habits. The goal of this study was to determine the diets of potential competitors of the lionfish, in particular a grouper, Cephalopholis cruentata (Graysby), and a snapper, Lutjanus apodus (Schoolmaster), and to compare them to the diet of lionfish in Xcalak, southern Mexican Caribbean. Stomach contents were analyzed and electivity and diet overlap were estimated. The trophic overlap between the lionfish and the two putative competitors, especially the grouper, was high, including prey that was consumed by the predators in higher proportion than the relative abundance of the prey in the environment, and probably at the same time of day. Lionfish and grouper shared as important diet items Stegastes sp., Halichoeres sp., Brachyura, and Palaemonidae, and most full stomachs were found during the early morning. The hypothesis of competition between them for particular prey is supported, so we advise to continue the culling programs of lionfish and also to monitor the abundance of the possible native competitors.
... Our results agree with the patterns of the currents of the Mesoamerican Reef System hydrography and with the flow pattern's cyclonic circulation known as the Honduras Gyre(Carrillo et al., 2015). Still, the finding of P. miles in Banco Chinchorro (Guzmán-Méndez, Rivera-Madrid, Díaz-Jaimes,García-Rivas, et al., 2017) evidence that the dispersion process of both species (P. miles and P. volitans) is constant and increasing. ...
Full-text available
Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have rapidly invaded the tropical Atlantic and spread across the wider Caribbean in a relatively short period of time. Because of its high invasion capacity, we used it as a model to identify the connectivity among nine marine protected areas (MPAs) situated in four countries in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. This study provides evidence of local genetic differentiation of P. volitans in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. A total of 475 lionfish samples were characterized with 12 microsatellites, with 6–20 alleles per locus. Departures from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) were found in 10 of the 12 loci, all caused by heterozygous excess. Moderate genetic differentiation was observed between Chiriviche, Venezuela and Xcalak, México localities (FST = 0.012), and between the Los Roques and the Veracruz (FST = 0.074) sites. STRUCTURE analysis found that four genetic entities best fit our data. A unique genetic group in the Gulf of Mexico may imply that the lionfish invasion unfolded both in a counterclockwise manner in the Gulf of Mexico. In spite of the notable dispersion of P. volitans, our results show some genetic structure, as do other noninvasive Caribbean fish species, suggesting that the connectivity in some MPAs analyzed in the Caribbean is limited and caused by only a few source individuals with subsequent genetic drift leading to local genetic differentiation. This indicates that P. volitans dispersion could be caused by mesoscale phenomena, which produce stochastic connectivity pulses. Due to the isolation of some MPAs from others, these findings may hold a promise for local short‐term control of by means of intensive fishing, even in MPAs, and may have regional long‐term effects.
... "Lionfish" and Pterois spp. refer to both species, due to the recent record of P. miles in BCBR (Guzmán-Méndez et al., 2017). This Marine Protected Area is considered a priority in the Mesoamerican Reef System region, so the results presented here are important to determine the course of monitoring and control efforts. ...
Full-text available
The lionfish (Pterois volitans, P. miles) is the first known species of marine fish to invade the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and it is threatening the biodiversity of the region's coral reefs. Its success as an invasive species is due to its high predation and fertility, fast growth and lack of predators. Its first recorded appearance in Mexico was in 2009. Twenty-two sites were monitored around the reef of Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve (BCBR), to estimate their abundance, during 2013. Densities from 0 to 333 ind ha−1 (97.6 ± 140.2 ind ha−1) and biomasses from 0 to 58.7 kg ha−1 (18.2 ± 29.9 kg ha−1) were recorded, the highest so far in the Mexican Caribbean. In addition, two lionfish distribution zones were detected: leeward reef (LR) and windward reef (WR). LR was 4.6 and 3.9 times higher in density and biomass than WR, respectively. The sizes found in the monitoring ranged from 5 to 40 cm of total length. Finally, a gregarious behavior was observed in 47.5% of the recorded fish. Our results suggest that to prevent the development of large reservoirs of lionfishes in the BCBR, management and control actions in areas of high lionfish abundance should be prioritized.
... During the last years, genetic approaches using mitochondrial DNA have been applied to investigate the lionfish invasion. Barcode analyses suggested that although two lionfish species, Pterois volitans (Linnaeus, 1758) and P. miles (Bennett, 1828), were introduced in the NW Atlantic 15,23 , P. volitans is the most ubiquitous species, occurring throughout the US east coast, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico 15,16,20,21,23,24 . Although some molecular data did not detect signs of mitochondrial introgression and/or hybridization between the two potential species 16 , the most recent morphological and molecular information revealed that P. volitans is a recent hybrid species between the Indian lineage of P. miles and a Pacific lineage encompassing P. lunulata and P. russelii 25 . ...
Full-text available
Despite the devastating impact of the lionfish (Pterois volitans) invasion on NW Atlantic ecosystems, little genetic information about the invasion process is available. We applied Genotyping by Sequencing techniques to identify 1,220 single nucleotide polymorphic sites (SNPs) from 162 lionfish samples collected between 2013 and 2015 from two areas chronologically identified as the first and last invaded areas in US waters: the east coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. We used population genomic analyses, including phylogenetic reconstruction, Bayesian clustering, genetic distances, Discriminant Analyses of Principal Components, and coalescence simulations for detection of outlier SNPs, to understand genetic trends relevant to the lionfish's long-term persistence. We found no significant differences in genetic structure or diversity between the two areas (F ST p-values > 0.01, and t-test p-values > 0.05). In fact, our genomic analyses showed genetic homogeneity, with enough gene flow between the east coast of Florida and Gulf of Mexico to erase previous signals of genetic divergence detected between these areas, secondary spreading, and bottlenecks in the Gulf of Mexico. These findings suggest rapid genetic changes over space and time during the invasion, resulting in one panmictic population with no signs of divergence between areas due to local adaptation.
Full-text available
BioInvasions Records" (BIR) is an international journal founded in 2011, with its primary focus the publication of new records of non-native species. We analyzed all published articles in BIR between 2012 and 2019, aiming to: make all georeferenced records openly available; investigate spatio-temporal patterns in reported records, methodologies for species identification, and pathways of invasion; and identify possible biases in reporting alien species occurrences and distributions. In total, 10457 georeferenced records were retrieved from 467 published articles, reporting 628 different species. Terrestrial species were under-represented in the dataset. Chordata dominated in the list of reported species, followed by Arthropoda, Mollusca, and Tracheophyta. Europe was the continent with most recorded species, followed by North America. In terms of species reported by country, USA ranked on top. This geographic bias is in accordance with global patterns of research output, related to the fact that North America and Western Europe are leaders in funding research and development, and this is where the majority of highly ranked universities are situated. The country diversity of reported species exhibited an increasing trend from 28 countries in 2012 to 49 countries in 2019. Single-author papers represented only ~ 5% of all published papers, and the median number of authors has increased from 3 in 2012–2013, to 4 in 2015–2019, following global trends of increased collaborations. The frequency of conducting molecular analyses for species identification has increased from 4.5% of published articles in 2012 to 25.2% in 2019, and is expected to further increase with the continuing development of molecular tools, in particular rapid advances and cost reduction in eDNA, next-generation sequencing, barcoding and metabarcoding analyses. The most common pathway of introduction (based on the CBD classification) was “transport-stowaway”, followed by “escape from confinement” and “corridor”. However, the importance of pathways significantly differed by environment. “Transport-stowaway” was the most important pathway for marine and transitional species, whereas “escape from confinement” was the most important pathway for terrestrial and freshwater species. The most important CBD pathway subcategory was “ship/boat ballast water”, followed by “interconnected waterways/basins/seas”, “natural dispersal across borders”, “ship/boat hull fouling”, “aquaculture/mariculture”, and “pet/aquarium/terrarium species (including live food for such species)”. BIR has provided the means for publishing valuable information on the distribution of alien species, the dynamics of invasions, and pathways of introduction, therefore substantially supporting invasion science and management.
Full-text available
The visual census of band transect (CVB) is one of the most used monitoring protocol on reefs, however this study confirms that its application fail in the detection and estimation of abundance of invasive lionfish. CVB vs Lionfish Search Census (CBP) was compared on Mexican Caribbean reefs. Differences in abundance of lionfish were found between CVB and CBP. Bias among both methods was significantly correlated to the cryptic behavior of inactivity and depth of the site. Finally, the use of different lionfish sampling methods and the application of CBP for monitoring reefs in the region are discussed.
Full-text available
We present a comprehensive review of the available global literature on the genetics and genomics of marine fish invasions. Overall this review provides data from 66 species belonging to 39 families, collected from 80 published studies on both WoS (Web of Science) and Scopus databases. We found that studies on alien fishes focused on specific geographic areas, mainly the Mediterranean region. Furthermore, most studies restricted their approach to describe patterns of cryptic diversity and/or the development of novel markers, whilst the genetic structure of introduced populations and the genetic mechanisms driving the invasion processes were mostly neglected. The majority of studies on marine fishes reveal similar genetic diversity levels in both native and introduced ranges, suggesting massive or multiple introductions. Indeed, cases of introduced populations showing evidence of bottlenecks were rare. Genetic arrangements are not explained by taxonomic group or reproductive strategy but recent studies reveal rapid evolutionary changes associated with invasive lineages, opening new grounds to investigate mechanisms of adaptation in the natural environment. Finally, the potential of marine fish invasions as a model to test evolutionary responses to rapid environmental changes is further discussed. Graphic abstract Open image in new window
Full-text available
We present the latest version of the Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis (MEGA) software, which contains many sophisticated methods and tools for phylogenomics and phylomedicine. In this major upgrade, MEGA has been optimized for use on 64-bit computing systems for analyzing bigger datasets. Researchers can now explore and analyze tens of thousands of sequences in MEGA. The new version also provides an advanced wizard for building timetrees and includes a new functionality to automatically predict gene duplication events in gene family trees. The 64-bit MEGA is made available in two interfaces: graphical and command line. The graphical user interface (GUI) is a native Microsoft Windows application that can also be used on Mac OSX. The command line MEGA is available as native applications for Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX. They are intended for use in high-throughput and scripted analysis. Both versions are available from free of charge.
Full-text available
The Indo-Pacific lionfish, Pterois miles and P. volitans, have recently invaded the U.S. east coast and the Caribbean and pose a significant threat to native reef fish communities. Few studies have documented reproduction in pteroines from the Indo-Pacific. This study provides a description of oogenesis and spawn formation in P. miles and P. volitans collected from offshore waters of North Carolina, U.S.A and the Bahamas. Using histological and laboratory observations, we found no differences in reproductive biology between P. miles and P. volitans. These lionfish spawn buoyant eggs that are encased in a hollow mass of mucus produced by specialized secretory cells of the ovarian wall complex. Oocytes develop on highly vascularized peduncles with all oocyte stages present in the ovary of spawning females and the most mature oocytes placed terminally, near the ovarian lumen. Given these ovarian characteristics, these lionfish are asynchronous, indeterminate batch spawners and are thus capable of sustained reproduction throughout the year when conditions are suitable. This mode of reproduction could have contributed to the recent and rapid establishment of these lionfish in the northwestern Atlantic and Caribbean.
Full-text available
The invasion of the northwestern Atlantic by the Indo-Pacific lionfish has developed extraordinarily fast, and is expected to cause one of the most negative ecological impacts among all marine invasions. In less than 30 years, lionfish have dramatically expanded their distribution range to an area encompassing the eastern coast of the USA, Bermuda, the entire Caribbean region and the Gulf of Mexico. The rapidity of the lionfish spread has raised concerns in other parts of the Atlantic that may be under the reach of the invasion. Despite the anticipation that lionfish would eventually extend their range throughout most of the eastern coast of South America, it had not been recorded in Brazil until now. Here we report the first lionfish appearance for the Brazilian coast and show that the individual collected by us is genetically linked to the invasive Caribbean population. Since small-range endemics are found in several locations in Brazil and are among the species that are most vulnerable to extinction, we recommend urgent control, management and education measures aimed at minimizing the effects of this impending invasion.
Full-text available
Specimens of the nominal species Pterois volitans from the Indian and Pacific Oceans were examined. Based on meristic (number of dorsal and anal rays) and morphometric (length of pectoral fin, size of spots on vertical fins) evidence, specimens from the Indian Ocean are referred to P. miles. Character differences in specimens of P. volitans from Western Australia and the southern Pacific are evident, but the status of these groups remains unclear, pending the collection of more material.
Full-text available
The occurrence of lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) complex on the southeast United States shelf represents one of the first documented invasions of a Pacific marine fish species into the western Atlantic Ocean. Temperature has been proposed as a possible factor limiting the range of this introduction. To examine this hypothesis, temperature-tolerance studies were conducted following the chronic lethal minimum protocol, with death as the endpoint. Overall, the mean chronic lethal minimum was 10.0°C and mean temperature at feeding cessation was 16.1°C. Rate of temperature decrease and acclimation temperature did not have a significant effect on chronic lethal minimum or temperature at feeding cessation. When combined with mean February water temperatures, lionfish thermal tolerance data indicated that lionfish could overwinter on the southeast United States continental shelf, with a northern limit of Cape Hatteras and an inshore limit coincident with the mean 12°C isotherm, which equates to a 10°C minimum water temperature. The mean 12°C bottom isotherm also runs along the continental shelf break (200 m isobath), marking the offshore limit for lionfish on the southeast United States continental shelf. The current southern limit of the invasion is not bound by temperature, as lionfish could survive (but have not yet been reported) on the Florida coast south of Miami, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, extending into the southern hemisphere. Possible reasons for the constrained southern limit may include planktonic transport mechanisms, patterns of juvenile and adult movements, and the initial lionfish introduction site.
Full-text available
The lionfish species Pterois miles and P. volitans are popular aquarium fishes that have gained recent notoriety as invasive species along the east coast of the United States and the Bahamas. The two species can usually be identified using dorsal and anal fin ray counts as well as geographic origin, but neither meristics nor geography are always definitive, and their taxonomic status as separate species has been questioned. Analyses of two mitochondria-encoded cytochrome b sequence data sets resolved specimens of P. miles and P. volitans in distinct monophyletic clades. There was also a .4% difference in the maximum intraspecific and minimum interspecific sequence divergences between specimens of the two species. These results are comparable to those of other analyzed Pterois and Dendrochirus sister species, and support their recognition as separate species. The cytochrome b analyses also show that Dendrochirus and Pterois are not reciprocally monophyletic as currently circumscribed, and that a comprehensive study is needed to resolve the taxonomy of Pteroinae genera.
A new method called the neighbor-joining method is proposed for reconstructing phylogenetic trees from evolutionary distance data. The principle of this method is to find pairs of operational taxonomic units (OTUs [= neighbors]) that minimize the total branch length at each stage of clustering of OTUs starting with a starlike tree. The branch lengths as well as the topology of a parsimonious tree can quickly be obtained by using this method. Using computer simulation, we studied the efficiency of this method in obtaining the correct unrooted tree in comparison with that of five other tree-making methods: the unweighted pair group method of analysis, Farris's method, Sattath and Tversky's method, Li's method, and Tateno et al.'s modified Farris method. The new, neighbor-joining method and Sattath and Tversky's method are shown to be generally better than the other methods.