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Asia Dive Site fish of the month

Every month we will bring you detailed information on a different species.
Previous months: Titan Triggerfish

Red Lionfish ( Pterois volitans )

A lionfish is any of several species of venomous marine fish in the genera Pterois or Dendrochirus , family Scorpaenidae. The lionfish is native to the tropical Indo-Pacific region of the world. They are notable for their extremely long and separated spines, and have a generally striped appearance, red, brown, or black on white. Members of the genus Pterois are collectively known as lionfishes, turkeyfishes, and firefishes. Pterois volitans is known by many common names, probably due to the fact that the species is widespread, easily observed, and potentially dangerous to humans. English language common names include red lionfish, butterfly cod, lion fish, lionfish, ornate butterfly-cod, peacock lionfish, red firefish, scorpion volitans, turkey fish, and turkeyfish.

Inhabits lagoon and seaward reefs from turbid inshore areas to depths of 50 meters. Hides in unexposed places at daytime often with head down and practically immobile. Pelagic juveniles expatriate over great distances and the reason for their broad geographical range. Hunts small fishes, shrimps, and crabs at night, using its widespread pectorals trapping prey into a corner, stunning it and then swallowing it in one sweep. Dorsal spines are venomous; the sting can be treated by heating the afflicted part and application of corticoids.

Red lionfish are external fertilizers that produce a pelagic egg mass following a courtship and mating process that is not well documented. The larvae of red lionfish, like those of many reef fishes, are planktonic.

Extracts prepared from the venomous dorsal spines of lionfish have been investigated in mice and rabbits. Intravenous injection into mice produced death in from less than a minute up to about one-half hour. The primary action in rabbits was a fall in blood pressure, accompanied by increase in respiratory rate; with larger doses there was evidence of myocardial ischemia or injury. After injection of fatal doses a variety of electrocardiographic changes occurred and the blood pressure fell to zero; respiratory arrest occurred terminally, but artificial respiration did not prolong the life of the animal. The active material was nondialyzable and the extracts contained considerable amounts of protein. Extracts retained substantial activity after lyophilization or addition of glycerol when stored for over a year at 20°C. The mean ld 50 following intravenous injection into mice was about 1 mg of protein/kg. While the "sting" of the red lionfish is painful and perhaps even potentially fatal to humans, some scorpionfishes may be unequivocally categorized amongst the most dangerous vertebrate sea creatures known. Certainly they are the most venomous of all fishes. Victims of envenomation by the reef stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa, are reported to have died from their wounds in a matter of an hour or two.

Some of the Asian dive sites to find Lionfish:

King Cruiser - Phuket | Mid Reef - Sipadan | Pulau Payar - Malaysia | Similans - Thailand | Tioman Island - Malaysia

Scientific Information:

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Scorpaeniformes (scorpionfishes, flatheads)
Family: Scorpaenidae
Scientific Name: Pterois volitans
Other Scientific Name(s): Gasterosteus volitans
Common Name: Volitans Lionfish
Other Common Names: Red lionfish
Distribution: Indo-Pacific: western Australia and Malaysia to the Marquesas Is. and Oeno (Pitcairn group); north to southern Japan and southern Korea; south to Lord Howe, Kermadec, and Austral Is.; throughout Micronesia.