Pacific red lionfish, a non-native species to the Atlantic Ocean introduced in the 1980s, have decimated up to 90 percent of the abundance of native reef fishes in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic, according to Science Now.
With that in mind, scientists set out to understand the secret of this invasive predator. In studying the striped creature, Science Now reports, the researchers saw it exhibit behavior unseen in other fish to help disorient prey before attacking. What was it? Shooting them with puffs of water.
Watch evidence of the lionfish doing this from various camera angles in both a natural and aquarium setting (Note: The aquarium portion begins at 0:50 and shows the puffs of water more clearly):
It’s not just the lionfish’s predation tactics that have made it such a successful invasive species. According the research by Mark Albins from Oregon State University and Patrick Lyons with SUNY at Stoney Brook, it also has strong defense mechanisms, including venomous dorsal, pelvic and anal fin spines. Its coloration and many projections off its main body could also help conceal it or warn predators to stay away.
The researchers did make the observation that small lionfish are more likely to use this puffing mechanism to disorient prey and those that are in the Pacific Ocean exhibit this behavior more than those in the Atlantic. The team believes this makes sense because those in the Atlantic may not have much in the way of competition to have to use a behavior that could require extra energy.
[H/T Huffington Post]