The invasive lionfish has been found thriving by an artificial reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, larger in size and in greater numbers than expected.
Researchers in a deep-diving Antipodes submarine, exploring the seafloor 300 feet below the surface near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last month, came upon an unwelcome surprise: an unprecedented number of invasive lionfish clustered around an artificial reef, according to LiveScience.
The specimens, measuring up to 16 inches long, were quite a bit larger than their typical 12-15 inches, making them capable of producing 10 times more spawn than their smaller kin.
The non-native species, which originate in Indo-Pacific oceans, have become a menace in the Atlantic because they are voracious eaters, have venomous spikes and have no natural enemies. Humans are thought to have introduced the lionfish to U.S. waters via the release of exotic pets.
Apparently, the fish makes a good meal if prepared correctly, and has become a bit of a delicacy in the Caribbean. Organized fish hunts have decreased the number of lionfish in recreational depths, but it seems the species is adapting and can thrive down to 1,000 feet according to Florida Dive Connection.
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