Hurricanes Are Creating "Express Lanes On A Super-Highway" For Lionfish

It's like snowbird season except you might die.
It's like snowbird season except you might die.
Photo by Sage via Wikipedia Commons

Somebody call the Syfy channel, because a Lionfishnado is a thing and only Ian Ziering and Tara Reid can save us from impending doom.

Researchers at Nova Southeastern University's (NSU) Oceanographic Center have discovered a new way in which hurricanes are a super pain-in-the-ass; they spread lionfish into the Florida Straits. Apparently, now included as one of the downfalls a hurricanes has on planet Earth is that it's dramatic effect on ocean currents helps lionfish surf their happy asses into places they could have never swam.

"This is the first-ever study that shows hurricane-altered ocean currents are able not only to help, but actually accelerate the invasion of non-native marine species of any kind," said Matthew Johnston, Ph.D., one of the research scientists at NSU's Oceanographic Center who conducted the study.

"Lionfish are pretty sedentary, so this is like creating express lanes on a superhighway - otherwise, that's a pretty long swim for lionfish babies."

Congratulations, it's Friday and you're now worried about lionfish babies. If it's not a dinosaur alligators moseying through your tee-shot, it's a lionfish baby coming to wreck our ecosystem. At this rate, a zombie apocalypse might not seem so bad.

The research, conducted by Johnston and NSU Oceanographic Center Professor Sam Purkis, Ph.D, focused on the explosion of lionfish populations in our area waters, something that once-upon-a-time was not a thing.

The main focus of the study was how large storms (see hurricanes) are affecting the flow of water in the Florida Straits. In a normal ocean sans strong winds, the currents represent a wall that makes the transport of lionfish eggs and larvae extremely unlikely -- but it seems hurricanes are now lifting those lionfish-baby-bullets up, and firing them directly over nature's defense system. It's estimated that storms have now helped increase the spread of lionfish by approximately 45%, and their population size by 15%.

All of that is the good news, because the bad news is Lionfishpalooza is just getting started.

"The study has broader implications in that global climate change may cause an increase in storm frequency and/or intensity, perhaps further accelerating the spread of marine invasives," Johnston said. "Given that South Florida is a hotspot for marine invasive species, the transport of marine larvae from Florida to the Bahamas on hurricane-altered water flow may become commonplace for invasive and native species alike."

So what can we do to stop the lionfish from eventually crashing our coast, learning to walk, and flirting with our wives? Kill them all with fire. Just kidding, according to researchers, our best bet in thwarting the lionfish and their super-secret-hurricane-highway is to stay aware of the problem, stop dumping unwanted-pet lionfish into the waters, and and keep a lookout for lionfish.




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