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Lionfish have arrived off the North Carolina coast, where they have become one of the most abundant fish predators and a major conservation concern.

Previous terrestrial and freshwater studies have illustrated the devastating ecological effects that invasive predators can exert on naïve prey, including regional species extinction. Doctoral student Andrea Anton Gamazo performed extensive studies of the non-native lionfish’s invasion of marine ecosystems. Her research discovered that numerous fish species do not identify the lionfish as a predator—the most dangerous form of prey naiveté because it prevents anti-predator responses.

The lionfish diet includes such species as grouper and snapper, important to the North Carolina coastal economy. The wide distribution of lionfish could have devastating consequences for local fisheries and the state’s economy.

Andrea’s research adds crucial knowledge to enhance management of this exotic predator in North Carolina.