INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Researchers at the Smithsonian Marine Station (SMS) in Fort Pierce recently collected four nonnative lionfish south of the Fort Pierce Inlet in the Indian River Lagoon. SMS Research Assistant Sherry Reed and Drs. Mark and Diane Littler of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History were collecting algae samples in approximately 3 feet of water when they came across a single juvenile red lionfish, Pterois volitans. The specimen was located on the seawall west of Fort Pierce Utilities Authority’s Water Reclamation Facility on South Hutchinson Island.
Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit staff captured the lionfish, which is approximately 9 cm in length. The specimen is currently on public display at the Ecosystems Exhibit as part of a temporary exhibit on invasive species. Three additional juvenile red lionfish were later discovered and sent to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS) program for DNA analysis.
Lionfish are a nonnative, venomous fish of the scorpionfish family. Native to the western Pacific, they are typically found in rocky reefs at up to 175 meters in depth. Their flashy fins and ornate color pattern made them popular in the aquarium trade, which may have played a role in their introduction to Atlantic waters.
The Ecosystems Exhibit is located in the St. Lucie County Marine Center at 420 Seaway Drive on South Hutchinson Island in Fort Pierce and is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for children and seniors. The Smithsonian Marine Station, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, is dedicated to understanding the character and diversity of the marine and estuarine habitats of Florida.
For more information on lionfish, or to report a lionfish sighting, visit the NAS website at http://nas.er.usgs.gov.