The research of Stony Brook ecology and evolution graduate student Patrick Lyons and colleagues is featured in Marine Ecology Progress Series and highlighted in Science Now. Lyons, who works in the marine ecology lab of Distinguished Professor Jeffrey Levinton, has been studying a novel behavior of Pacific red lionfish (Pterois volitans), which have been a major area of study in marine conservation because they have invaded the Caribbean from the western Pacific and are devastating predators.
Lionfish have reduced the number of native Caribbean and western Atlantic reef fishes by up to 90 percent. While monitoring lionfish populations in the Bahamas, Lyons’ research team first observed the secret to the lionfish’s success as a predator. Using a strategy unheard of in other fish predators, lionfish blow jets of water at their prey to disorient them. Only 18 percent of observed lionfish in the Atlantic blew these jets, while about half of the observed lionfish employed this strategy in the Pacific. The research team reported that unsuspecting Atlantic prey are easier for lionfish to catch without having to resort to this spitting behavior.
Lyons earns his Ph.D. this spring.