Using Temperature Tolerance to Predict Distribution and Overwintering Success of Lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles complex) on the East Coast of the United States.

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Title: Using Temperature Tolerance to Predict Distribution and Overwintering Success of Lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles complex) on the East Coast of the United States.
Author: Kimball, Matthew Eric
Advisors: John Miller, Committee Chair
Jon Hare, Committee Member
Abstract: Lionfish have been observed at multiple locations along the east coast of the United States, with the majority found between Miami, Florida and North Carolina. The occurrence of lionfish represents one of the first documented invasions of a marine fish species in the western Atlantic. Most lionfish observed along the southeast US shelf have been at depths greater than 35 m, whereas in their native range lionfish inhabit depths from shore to 50 m. One potential limiting factor in the distribution of lionfish on the southeast US continental shelf is winter water temperature. In particular, the northern and inshore distribution of lionfish is predicted to be temperature limited, with Cape Hatteras as the northernmost limit for overwintering. To examine this hypothesis, temperature tolerance studies were conducted following the critical thermal minimum protocol with death as the modified endpoint. Along with temperature at death (CTMin), observations on activity and feeding behavior were recorded. Overall mean CTMin was 9.95°C (SD = 0.86) and mean temperature at feeding cessation was 16.07°C (SD = 2.14). Rate of temperature decrease and acclimation temperature did not have a significant effect on CTMin or feeding cessation. No fish were observed eating below 13°C. When combined with February water temperatures, lionfish thermal tolerance data predicted that lionfish could overwinter on the southeast US continental shelf, with a northern limit of Cape Hatteras and successful inhabitance limited to offshore of the 13°C isotherm. Although lionfish can tolerate temperatures lower than 13°C, lower temperatures may limit overwintering by controlling feeding behavior. The continental shelf break (200 m isobath) marks the offshore limit for lionfish on the southeast US continental shelf. The current southern limit of the invasion is not bound by temperature, as lionfish could survive but have not yet been reported on the Florida coast south of Miami. Possible reasons for the constrained southern limit may include larval and juvenile transport mechanisms along the Atlantic coast as well as the initial lionfish introduction site.
Date: 2003-10-16
Degree: MS
Discipline: Zoology
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1911


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