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It's like the Python Challenge except with lionfish

Looks pretty. But watch out.

JENS PETERSEN | Wikimedia Commons

Looks pretty. But watch out.

28

March

Remember the snake hunt? Of course you do. Say the organizers of this latest invasive-species-related competition:

Lionfish are trying to take over the Atlantic Ocean, let's take it back! Our waters here in North Florida are no exception. With no natural predators it is up to us to keep the marine ecosystem in balance. The goal of this tournament is to raise awareness in our fishing community about the lionfish invasion and have a good time doing it.

Drawing from information from the Associated Press, NOAA, National Geographic, LiveScience.com and deathtolionfish.org, here are a dozen things worth knowing about Florida's pythons of the sea:

1. Lionfish are also called turkey fish, dragon fish, scorpion fish, zebrafish, butterfly cod, firefish, red firefish or devil firefish.

2. They're native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.

3. They've found their way to warm ocean habitats worldwide, though, and they can live in water of poor quality as well as shallow mangrove waters or waters a thousand feet deep. They can thrive along the southeast U.S. as far north as North Carolina. Says Nova Southeastern's Matthew Johnston: "They pretty much have been unprecedented in any marine invasion. It's the largest, the quickest, the most extensive marine invasion we've ever seen."

4. They're here most likely as a result of escapes or releases from aquariums, either by accident or on purpose — there is one documented case of lionfish escaping from an aquarium located in a house damaged by Hurricane Andrew.

5. They eat a lot, and just about anything — including the young of many important commercial species, like snappers, groupers and shrimp. Says Oregon State lionfish expert Stephanie Green: "They can eat pretty much anything that fits inside their mouths."

6. They have teeth in their upper and lower jaw — but also on the roof of their mouth.

7. A lionfish's stomach can expand to 30 times its normal size.

8. They have no known predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Not even sharks.

9. A sting from a lionfish, thanks to their 13 dorsal, three anal or two pelvic venom-filled spines, is extremely painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing difficulties, but is rarely fatal.

10. They're prized in the aquarium trade.

11. When it comes to lionfish, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission basically has no rules, no limits. Catch 'em, eat 'em.

12. They're delicious.

[Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 1:57pm]

    

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