Nassau grouper herds lionfish toward open water; video screen grab

The continuing infestation of lionfish throughout the Caribbean and parts of the Atlantic is cause for alarm, because these prickly, venomous critters have no known natural enemies and their proliferation is going largely unchecked.

However, it seems that at least one large grouper has developed a taste for lionfish, poisonous spines and all, although eating them requires great care and proper timing.

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The accompanying Lionfish University video, showing a Nassau grouper stalking and ultimately devouring a lionfish in the Caribbean, is believed to be the first footage showing this type of event without the interference of humans (people killing lionfish and attempting to feed them to groupers).

The Nassau grouper seems to herd the lionfish from its reef into open water, where it can investigate and poke from various angles, before lunging for the kill.


Nassau grouper about to lunge for the kill; video screen grab

While some viewers might feel sorry for the lionfish, biologists have good reason to cheer for the grouper, given that lionfish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific, posses the potential to disrupt ecosystems in the Caribbean and Atlantic.

It remains unclear how devastating their presence–believed to be the result of years of people dumping their unwanted aquarium pets into the sea–may turn out to be.

But lionfish are carnivores, which feed small crustaceans and fish, including the young of groupers and snappers, so their impact is already proving to be significant.

The concern is so genuine that fisheries agencies and scuba divers, for the past several years, have conducted large-scale culling events in the hope of minimizing the threat.

Perhaps the larger groupers, such as the hungry fish in the video, are beginning to take matters into their own hands.