Comparison of age and growth parameters of invasive red lionfish (Pterois volitans) across the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Invasive red lionfish (Pterois volitans) have spread rapidly throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) partly because of their high growth rate. Red lionfish were collected from the northern GOM across 3 ecological regions from 2012 through 2015. For male and female red lionfish, relationships between weight and total length (TL) were different by ecological region. Males achieved a greater mean weight adjusted for TL (333.6 g [standard error (SE) 3.6]) than females (195.1 g [SE 3.7]). A subsample of 1607 pairs of sagittal otoliths (from 744 males, 716 females, and 147 fish of unknown or undetermined sex) was used to assign ages. Ages ranged from 0.0 to 4.5 years (mean: 1.4 years), and these estimated ages and the dates of capture for specimens confirm the presence of red lionfish in the northern GOM in 2008, 2 years prior to the first detection of this species there. There were differences in age and growth between sexes within and among ecological regions, with males achieving higher growth rates and larger asymptotic lengths than females (all comparisons: P<0.01). These findings, coupled with other life history information, aid in discerning differences in distribution of red lionfish populations and are essential for creating management plans for mitigation of their effects on ecosystems.