Godzilla' lionfish threatening Cayman paradise
By Tim Ecott Cayman Islands
Suddenly, I notice Peter Hillenbrand, my diving buddy, gesticulating angrily - he points with one hand and pulls the trigger on an imaginary gun. It is not the sharks he is angry at, but a brightly coloured fish covered in feathery spines. I recognise it immediately as a lionfish - distinctive with its tracery of red-brown stripes and the high venomous spikes all along its back and protruding from its pectoral fins. I have seen thousands of these fish in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but they should not be here in the Caribbean."These fish are like Godzilla," Peter tells me on the boat after we surface. "Two or three years ago we would see the odd one here and there, but now on every dive they're there. "I've been diving these reefs for over 30 years and I'm worried that these fish are taking over," he says. On Little Cayman, I visit the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, where scientists are studying the invasive population of lionfish, more properly known as Pterois volitans. Morgan Edwards, a post-graduate researcher at the Institute invites me to watch her dissecting them. Even in death they are beautiful, with a maze of dark red stripes all over their head and body, protective spines covered in a web of fine skin and delicate frilly tassels of skin hanging from their mouths.
After measuring its length, weight and other details, Morgan removes the stomach from each fish and opens it to find out what they have been eating - shrimps, baby grouper, damsel fish and crabs. "Their stomach can expand up to 30 times its volume," Morgan explains. "And they can swallow any other fish up to two thirds their own body length. "But they seem to have no natural predators here in the Caribbean."
What is interesting about this is that no one knows where they came from. Why should this interest cryptozoologists? Because how many times have you heard people say, how can a lake monster /unknown creature be here, where did it come from ,it’s not possible etc. Well it is possible ,even if only that it is someone’s now unwanted pet released into the wild. From an ecology point of view it’s an invasive species that adapted and has taken over as the major predator. Adaption is also interesting to cryptozoologists as in How could such a creature survive here? Well they do as this example shows.I hope they find a solution to this fish though before it decimates the local population of creatures.