Lionfish are beautiful, hardy fish that live in warm, tropical waters. They are native to the coral reefs of the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. In 1985, lionfish appeared somewhere far away from their natural habitats: in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Florida. They may have been released there on purpose from someone’s home aquarium.
Watch the animation below to see how lionfish have spread over time. As you watch, think about the patterns you see in the growth of the lionfish’s range and what might cause these patterns.
Watch an interview below with marine biologist Stephanie Green to learn more about lionfish.
In the Atlantic Ocean, lionfish are an invasive species, a species that spreads through and harms a habitat where it is not native. Lionfish are harmful because they prey on native fish and invertebrates. As lionfish populations grow, they may kill many of the native animals, which negatively affects biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics.