Pterois antennataRagged-finned firefish

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Geographic Range

Broadbarred firefish (Bloch, 1787) are found in the Indo-West Pacific region. This species ranges from east Africa to the Marquesan and Mangaréva islands and from northern Japan to Queensland, Australia, and can also be found in the waters surrounding the Kermadec and Austral islands. (Fuller, 1999; Lieske and Myers, 1994)

Habitat

Broadbarred firefish are inhabitants of near and offshore coral and rocky reefs to depths of 50 meters. This species displays an obvious preference for sheltering under ledges or in caves and crevices by day, coming out to hunt over the reef at night. (Beckel, 2010)

  • Range depth
    1 to 50 m
    3.28 to 164.04 ft

Physical Description

Broadbarred firefish show the typical morphology of members of the genus Pterois, with a laterally compressed, somewhat deep body and elaborate dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins. The first dorsal fin contains 12 to 13 spines, the second contains 11 to 12 soft rays, the anal fin is composed of 3 spines followed by 6 soft anal rays, and the pectoral fin contains 17 unbranched, soft rays. Teeth are numerous and very small, occurring on the upper and lower jaws in densely packed bilateral clusters and in a small patch on the anterior roof of the mouth. Coloration varies between individuals, but is typically reddish to tan with many dark vertical bars on the body, with the interradial membranes of the pectorial fins containing multiple scattered, dark-colored spots. Adults also have bluish black blotches near the bases of their pectoral fins. There is no difference in color pattern between sexes. Juveniles have structures called supraorbital tentacles located above their eyes (which may persist into adulthood) that show differences in shape and color between Pterois species. In broadbarred firefish, these tentacles are black, with brown bars. (Beckel, 2010; Myers, 1999; Paulin, 1982)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    30 to 38.1 cm
    11.81 to 15.00 in

Development

In Pterois species, early embryo formation is evident approximately twelve hours after fertilization. The head and eyes become moderately developed about 18 hours post-fertilization. Eventually, invading microbes deteriorate the mucus wall of the egg capsule, and 36 hours after fertilization, the larvae hatch. Broadbarred firefish larvae, like those of many reef fishes, are planktonic and invest most of their energy in growth early in life. Four days after egg fertilization, the larvae are already good swimmers and are able to feed on small ciliates. Larvae settle out of the water column after approximately 25 to 40 days, at a length of 10-12 mm. (Fishelson, 1975; Stearns and Crandall, 1984)

Reproduction

Information regarding specifics of the mating system of broadbarred firefish is currently unavailable. Pterois species are generally solitary, but form spawning aggregations. When preparing to spawn, males become darker and more uniformly colored, as their stripes become less apparent. Females with ripening eggs become paler and their belly, pharyngeal region, and mouth become silvery white. As a result, the females are easier for the males to detect visually. Courtship behavior begins at dusk and is always initiated by the males. After a male selects a mate by visual indicators, he circles the female. After circling several times, the male then ascends to the water surface followed by the female. The two may descend and ascend several times before they spawn. On the final ascent, the male and female will swim around just beneath the surface of the water while the female releases her egg masses. Mating is promiscuous, with one male usually spawning with several females. (Beckel, 2010; Fishelson, 1975; Myers, 1999)

Breeding Pterois males are particularly aggressive, especially when a competitor invades the territory of a male courting his female. The aggressive male will approach the intruder and spread his pectoral fins, swimming back and forth in front of the intruder with his head pointed down, pointing the venomous dorsal spines forward. If this display does not deter the challenging male, the aggressive male shakes its head prior to charging the intruder in an attempt to bite the intruder's head. This may result in the intruder having parts of its mouth torn off, and the aggressor may become impaled on the spines of the intruder. (Beckel, 2010; Fishelson, 1975)

Although information regarding specific reproductive behaviors in broadbarred firefish is not available, general reproductive behaviors have been found to be fairly similar between other Pterois species. Spawning appears to occur year-round. Fertilization is external, with the female releasing egg masses containing up to 15,000 individual eggs. These masses are comprised of two hollow mucus tubes, which float just below the surface. Within 15 minutes, the tubes absorb seawater and become oval balls 2-5 cm in diameter. As the female spawns, the male releases sperm, which penetrates the mucus balls and fertilizes the eggs within. Fertilized eggs usually hatch within 36 hours. (Beckel, 2010; Fishelson, 1975; Lieske and Myers, 1994; Myers, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding may occur monthly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding can occur year round.
  • Range number of offspring
    2,000 to 15,000
  • Average time to hatching
    36 hours

As broadcast spawners, broadbarred firefish provide no parental investment beyond the nutrients that females provide via the yolks of their eggs. (Fishelson, 1975; Myers, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Information regarding the lifespan of broadbarred firefish in the wild and in captivity is currently unavailable.

Behavior

Broadbarred firefish are nocturnal fishes that swim by slowly undulating their soft dorsal and anal fins. Although most of the lionfish’s feeding occurs within the first hour of the night, it will remain active and out in the open until daylight. Once daylight occurs, individuals retreat within the shelter of coral and rocks. In these areas the species exhibits a nearly motionless posture, with the head tilted slightly downward, with the venomous dorsal spines pointing towards the entrance of the crevice. This species congregates in small schools as juveniles and while mating. However, they are solitary for the majority of their adult life. (Fishelson, 1975; Francis, 1993; Grant, 1999; Myers, 1999)

Home Range

Broadbarred firefish do not stray far from the areas closely surrounding the coral, rock outcroppings and caves they use as shelters. Home range may be several square meters in area. They will fiercely defend these areas against conspecifics and congeners using their venomous dorsal spines. Male lionfish are more aggressive than females. (Fishelson, 1975; Grant, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Communication appears to occur mainly via visual cues. If a male encounters another male during foraging, the more aggressive male will turn a darker color and point its venomous, spiny dorsal fins at the other individual. The less dominant lionfish will usually fold down its pectoral fins and swim away. (Fishelson, 1997)

Like other bony fish, lionfish possess sensory structures to perceive vibrations and pressure (the lateral line), chemicals (nares), and eyes that may distinguish polarized light. (Fishelson, 1997)

Food Habits

Broadbarred firefish are important predators in many coral reef environments, feeding mostly on crustaceans, as well as other invertebrates, and small fishes, including juveniles of their own species. They are known to feed on juveniles of many commercially fished species, like Lutjanus campechanus (red snapper), Plectropomus leopardus (coral trout), and Stenopus hispidus (banded coral shrimp). This species consumes an average of 8.2 times its body weight (up to 45 kg of prey) per year. As juveniles, they consume 5.5 to 13.5 g per day and 14.6 g per day as adults. (Fishelson, 1975; Fuller, 1999; Harmelin-Vivien and Bouchon, 1976; Myers, 1999)

Broadbarred firefish are skilled hunters, using specialized bilateral swim bladder muscles to provide precise control of their position in the water column, allowing a fish to adjust its center of gravity to better attack its prey. When they stalk their prey, they raise their pectoral fins in a shielding fashion. This display, along with the body coloration of this species, decreases the visibility of the firefish to potential prey, blending its body outline into the irregular background patterns of coral branches, feather stars, and sea urchin spines. The firefish attacks with one swift gulping motion, sucking the prey into its mouth. (Albins and Hixon, 2008; Harmelin-Vivien and Bouchon, 1976)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • other marine invertebrates

Predation

Anti-predator adaptations of broadbarred firefish include aposematic coloration, motionless/still behavior during daylight hours, and venomous glandular tissue that produces painful toxins sheathing the dorsal, pelvic, and anal spines. (Church and Hodgson, 2001; Myers, 1999)

Ecosystem Roles

Pterois species are important secondary and tertiary consumers in coral reef ecosystems. (Albins and Hixon, 2008)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Although broadbarred firefish are valued as food in many parts of its native range, its economic benefit to humans as a staple of the trade in aquarium fishes far exceeds its value as table fare. This species also plays a role in tourism, as recreational divers in areas where broadbarred firefish are found count this species among the many attractions of diving over a tropical coral reef. (Myers, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Two of the 15 currently recognized Pterois species (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) have established themselves as significant invasive species. Although eradication of these exotic species is desired, the fact that members of this genus are able to reproduce monthly throughout the entire year means that in order to successfully remove the species, monthly control efforts must be undertaken to ensure population control. Research suggests that invasive lionfish are already having substantial negative impacts on Atlantic coral reefs, causing significant reductions in the recruitment of native fishes. Furthermore, these species are aggressive towards humans and should be treated with caution at all times. Worldwide, scorpionfishes (a taxonomic order that includes Pterois species) rank second only to stingrays in total number of human envenomations by fish species. Puncture wounds from Pterois species' spines can cause extreme pain, potentially lasting for days, accompanied by sweating and respiratory depression. Experimental evidence suggests that stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa) antivenom has some detoxifying effect on lionfish venom. (Church and Hodgson, 2001; Fuller, 1999; Grant, 1999; Shiomi, et al., 1989)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status

Broadbarred firefish are not currently listed as threatened or endangered. However, continued degradation of coral reefs is expected to reduce populations of many of the fish and crustaceans that they feed on. If they are unable to exploit alternate food sources, their populations may also decrease. Although broadbarred firefish are widely distributed, the status of their various populations should be monitored. Additional genetic research may reveal that this widely distributed species is in fact a species complex awaiting further scientific description. (Church and Hodgson, 2001; Fishelson, 1997)

Contributors

Padgette' Steer (author), San Diego Mesa College, Paul Detwiler (editor), San Diego Mesa College, Jeremy Wright (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

aposematic

having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

coastal

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

piscivore

an animal that mainly eats fish

polarized light

light waves that are oriented in particular direction. For example, light reflected off of water has waves vibrating horizontally. Some animals, such as bees, can detect which way light is polarized and use that information. People cannot, unless they use special equipment.

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

reef

structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

venomous

an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

visual

uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

Albins, M., M. Hixon. 2008. Invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans reduce recruitment of Atlantic coral-reef fishes. Marine Ecology Program, Series 367: 233-238.

Beckel, T. 2010. "Lionfish (Genus Pterois)" (On-line). Accessed November 01, 2011 at http://www.lionfishhunters.org/Lionfish.html.

Church, J., W. Hodgson. 2001. The pharmacological activity of fish venoms. Toxicon, Volume: 40, Issue: 8: 1083-1093.

Fishelson, L. 1975. Ethology and reproduction of the pteroid fishes found in the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea) especially Dendrochirus brachypterus (Cuvier) Pteroidae (Teleostei). Pubblicazioni della Stazione zoologica di Napoli, 39: 635-656..

Fishelson, L. 1997. Experiments and observations on food consumption growth and starvation in Dendrochirus brachypterus and Pterois volitans (Pteroinae, Scorpaenidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 50: 391-403.

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science, 47(2): 136-170.

Fuller, P. 1999. "Nonindigenous Aquatic Species" (On-line). USCS. Accessed November 01, 2011 at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/fishes/accounts/scorpaen/pt_volit.html..

Grant, E. 1999. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane, Queensland: The Department of Harbours and Marine.

Harmelin-Vivien, M., C. Bouchon. 1976. Feeding behavior of some carnivorous fishes (Serranidae and Scorpaenidae) from Tuléar (Madagascar). Marine Biology, 37: 329-340.

Lieske, E., R. Myers. 1994. Collins Pocket Guide Coral reef fishes Indo-Pacific & Caribbean including the Red Sea. London, UK: HarperCollins Publishers.

Myers, R. 1999. Micronesian reef fishes: a comprehensive guide to the coral reef fishes of Micronesia, 3rd revised and expanded edition. Barrigada, Guam: Coral Graphics.

Paulin, C. 1982. Scorpionfishes of New Zealand (Pisces: Scorpaenidae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 9: 437-450.

Shiomi, K., M. Hosaka, S. Fujita, H. Yamanaka, T. Kikuchi. 1989. Venoms from six species of marine fish lethal and hemolytic activities and their neutralization by commercial stonefish antivenom. Marine Biology, 103 Edition 3: 285-290.

Shohei, S. 1986. Ecological Encyclopedia of the Marine Animals of the Indo-Pacific, Volume 1: Vertebrata (Mammals, Reptiles, Fish). Tokyo, Japan: Shin Nippon Kyoiku Tosho Co,. Ltd..

Stearns, S., R. Crandall. 1984. Plasticity for age and size at sexual maturity: a life-history response to unavoidable stress. Fish Reproduction: Strategies and Tactics, Academic Press, London: 13-33.