Source: Japan Times
University of Florida researchers in the Cayman Islands have come up with a controversial new method to deal with the problem of invasive lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea: teach native predators to eat them. The scientists found that while sharks and groupers usually avoid lionfish and their apparently unappetizing venomous spines, they can be conditioned to consume them when their meals are tethered with lead weights.
By literally weighing down individuals, the team found that nurse sharks and Nassau groupers couldn’t resist gobbling the lionfish, which the scientists believe suggests that these natural predators have the capacity to “learn” to remove the invasive species from the oceans where they don’t belong.
Other researchers are highly skeptical about the research, arguing that it is unsafe to suggest that predators eating tethered lionfish will eventually begin to predate on untethered lionfish. Moreover, many experts believe that trying to condition predators is a dangerous idea with unpredictable results that could lead to more people being bitten.
The new research comes not long after another study suggested that spearfishing lionfish to reduce their numbers has resulted in the remaining animals being more wary of humans—further complicating the fight against these invasive marine creatures.
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