It's that time of year again: time to give thanks, to eat extra, and to think deeply about that enigmatic holiday species: the Turkeyfish.
Viewed from the right angle, the ornate fins of the lionfish resemble turkey plumage. That's why 'Turkeyfish' is one of the many imaginative names people use when referring to the lionfish.
This member of the scorpionfish family has thirteen venomous spines along its back connected with a clear membrane, used to defend itself. These fish are slow-moving and peaceful, but can be dangerous.
Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but are now established along the southeast coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and in parts of the Gulf of Mexico.
Since lionfish are not native to Atlantic waters, they have very few predators. They are carnivores that feed on small crustaceans and fish, including the young of important commercial fish species such as snapper and grouper.
How lionfish will affect native fish populations and commercial fishing industries has yet to be determined. What is known is that non-native species can dramatically affect native ecosystems and local fishing economies. Experts are carefully studying these invaders to better understand their role in, and threat to, Atlantic Ocean ecosystems.