Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes and Their Allies)

Genus/species: Pterois volitans

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS:  The Red Lionfish has a compressed body with a large head from 1/3 to 1/2 the standard length. Greatly enlarged pectoral fins and elongate dorsal fins. Vertically colored brownish bars interspersed with fine white lines. Two visually identical species have been introduced into the north-west Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico making positive identification only by genetic analysis.

Length to 38 cm (54 in)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: P. volitans occurs throughout most of Oceania being native to the western Pacific Ocean and introduced to the Atlantic possibly through the aquarium trade. Inhabits coral reefs and lagoons, turbid inshore areas to depths to 50 m (160 ft). 

DIET IN THE WILD: A voracious nocturnal predator of small fishes, shrimp and crabs. Corners and traps prey with its widespread pectoral fins.


PREDATORS: Other than cannibalism, there are few documented natural predators of the lionfish  Native groupers in the Bahamas consume them. Finally despite their venomous spines, lionfish are caught by humans for food. 

LIFESPAN 10 years


REMARKS: Venomous glands at the base of dorsal, anal and pelvic fin spines are capable of inflicting severe and painful wounds. The venom contains a neurotoxin which reduces the transmission chemical signals to the muscles, as well as affecting the cardiovascular system. Doctors suggest soaking the afflicted area in very hot water to denature the venom’s proteins. Experimental evidence suggests that commercial stonefish antivenom does have some detoxifying effect on lionfish venom.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Caribbean Reef 2018

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