Year of Publication

2016

Season of Publication

Spring

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)

Department

Biology

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Eric Johnson

Second Advisor

Dr. Jim Gelsleichter

Third Advisor

Dr. Craig Layman

Department Chair

Dr. Cliff Ross

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick

Abstract

Invasive species are a top threat to global biodiversity. Lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) are a marine invasive predator that are now established in the Western Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Studies that have documented impacts of lionfish suggest they can reduce fish recruitment and native species biomass by up to 80%. Research on lionfish impacts, biology and ecology is heavily focused in tropical and subtropical systems, with considerably less research effort occurring in the temperate regions of their invaded range, such as the South Atlantic Bight. Lionfish life history estimates are important to modeling lionfish population growth, modeling future dispersal and evaluating the efficacy of different removal strategies. Since lionfish life history will vary with a suite of environmental, biological and ecological factors, estimates of lionfish life history should be collected in all regions of their invaded range. The purpose of this study was to collect baseline information of lionfish biology and ecology in the southern portion of the South Atlantic Bight, an unstudied region for this species. As such, chapter one uses a quantitative approach to determine lionfish life history estimates important to management. Some important results of chapter one are: lionfish are recruiting at one main time throughout the year, growth changes seasonally and the population is relatively young (< 3 years of age). Chapter two takes the first step in determining lionfish impacts in this region by quantifying their diet. The main conclusion of this chapter is that round scad (Decapterus punctatus), sand perch (Diplectrum formosum) and black sea bass (Centropristis striata) are the most important prey items in the lionfish diet. Black sea bass are an important fishery in the South Atlantic Bight, and lionfish could be negatively affecting recruitment. Together, these chapters provide important insight into lionfish ecology in this region and in general.

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