Movement, home range, and depredation of invasive lionfish revealed by fine-scale acoustic telemetry in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Fine-scale movement dynamics of adult invasive lionfish may inform the spatial scale of negative impacts to local food webs, the design and efficacy of ongoing removal efforts, and the speed at which lionfish may spread into new habitats, but have not previously been characterized. An acoustic Vemco positioning system (VPS) was used to track fine-scale (<10 m) movements of adult lionfish (288-395 mm total length; n = 20) tagged in situ at artificial reefs off Destin, Florida (USA). We estimated the spatial scale of movement, activity patterns, and individual home ranges, as well as whether these variables were affected by lionfish size or density. Lionfish were tracked up to 89 days and had 95% kernel utilization distribution (KUD) home ranges between 158 and 4051 m2. Daily distances moved (range 93-807 m) exceeded previous estimates, and 40% of tagged lionfish were tracked moving to reefs up to 2 km from initial tagging locations. Movement pattern and velocity data revealed two (10%) tagged lionfish were consumed by fast-moving predators, while another two emigrated outside the array. Acoustic detection of the remaining tagged fish ended prematurely following two hurricanes that passed over the array, which may implicate the storms in displacing tagged fish, causing tag loss, or contributing to lionfish mortality. Overall, results suggest invasive lionfish have larger home ranges and display greater movement than reported previously which has important implications for artificial reef management in Florida, and elsewhere, in response to the lionfish invasion.