ANAMAR News

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Sep
18

How the Lionfish Is Becoming King of the Gulf and What We Can Do About It

You’ve likely heard about the introduction and expansion within the western North Atlantic of the invasive lionfish.  You’ve read the headlines about this venomous predator from the Indo-Pacific region that’s well established along the southeastern United States, Bermuda, Bahamas, and the Caribbean, and now in the Gulf of Mexico (since at least 2010).  Lionfish have been reported along the eastern U.S. since the early 1980s, but the first verified report wasn’t until 1992, off North Carolina.  You’ve read about its propensity to cause trouble for the native reef ecosystems where it now resides.  The detrimental effects of the (likely intentional) introduction of the red lionfish (Pterois volitans), and possibly also the devil firefish (P. miles), include direct predation on native fishes, crabs, and shrimps and competition with native reef species for limited resources.  Lionfish are likely direct competitors of such species as black sea bass and certain snappers and, as a result, populations of these native predators are expected to decrease. 

Since first recorded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, lionfish populations have grown exponentially, covering most, if not all, suitable hardbottom and reef habitats along the West Florida Shelf.  In addition to direct consumption of native reef species by the lionfish, potential indirect effects caused by this introduced invasive predator include:

  • The declines of reef carnivores and reef omnivores as a result of lionfish predation is predicted to lead to increased populations of their benthic invertebrate prey (excluding shrimp).
    • This is a form of what’s called ‘trophic cascade’ effect.
  • Modest increases in populations of gray triggerfish, Vermilion snapper, and possibly tilefishes due to release from competition with other native reef carnivores.
    • This is a form of what’s called ‘competitive release’ effect.

It is currently unclear if lionfish populations in the Gulf of Mexico have reached carrying capacity (the maximum number of lionfish that the Gulf can support).  In 2013, Dauphin Island Sea Lab reported densities of lionfish on artificial reefs at 14.7 lionfish/100 m2, which was among the highest densities recorded in the western Atlantic at that time (O’Connor 2016).

What can be done to mitigate the effects of lionfish dubbing themselves King of the Gulf?  Recent research by University of Florida researchers suggests some possible ways of helping our native fishes.  Although lionfish are clearly here to stay, their numbers can be reduced somewhat through exploitation such as overfishing.  Given sufficient fishing pressure, local impacts may be partially mitigated, allowing native reef species a bit of relief, assuming the fishing pressure is kept up over time.  Here’s how you can do your part in controlling lionfish in U.S. waters:

  • Support the development of lionfish fisheries through the purchase of lionfish products at your local fish market or favorite seafood restaurant
  • Directly control introduced lionfish by spearing or capturing them within the Gulf of Mexico or western Atlantic
  • Consider contributing to a non-profit organization involved in lionfish control and research, such as Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) (www.reef.org)

The following photos of prepared lionfish dishes are meant to inspire the consumption of these beautiful, yet oh-so-invasive fish and encourage the development of a market for this species in Florida and elsewhere!

lionfish 1 FILEminimizer

lionfish 2 FILEminimizer

lionfish 3 FILEminimizer

Sources

Chagaris, D., S. Binion, A. Bogdanoff, K. Dahl, J. Granneman, H. Harris, J. Mohan, M.B. Rudd, M.K. Swenarton, R. Ahrens, M. Allen, J.A. Morris, and W.F. Patterson III.  2015.  Modeling lionfish management strategies on the West Florida Shelf: Workshop Summary and Results.  University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Chagaris, D., S. Binion-Rock, A. Bogdanoff, K. Dahl, J. Granneman, H. Harris, J. Mohan, M.B. Rudd, M.K. Swenarton, R. Ahrens, W.F. Patterson III, J.A. Morris Jr., and M. Allen.  2017.  An ecosystem-based approach to evaluating impacts and management of invasive lionfish. Fisheries 42:421–431.

O’Connor, R.  2016.  NISAW 2016 – An Update on the Lionfish Situation in the Panhandle.  UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Services Extension, Gainesville, FL.  Accessed online 07/24/18 at http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/nat/2016/02/21/nisaw-2016-an-update-on-the-lionfish-situation-in-the-panhandle/

A special thank you to Momoyaki sushi restaurant in Gainesville, Florida, for being one of the few restaurants in the area to feature lionfish.  http://momoyaki.com/contact/

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Aug
22

Exciting New Research on the Largetooth Sawfish Reveals the True Range of this Enigmatic Species in the United States

Well ahead of International Sawfish Day (October 17) is this concise paper that Jason, and his colleague John Waters, recently published in Gulf and Caribbean Research on the largetooth sawfish (Pristis pristis).  Sawfishes have been in the scientific spotlight for several years now, as populations in many areas are reduced and in need of conservation and research.  Jason and his coauthor attempt to clarify and correct some of the misleading information about the U.S. range of this enigmatic saw-snouted shark-like beasty.  Hopefully, this species will be found to still occur in Texas waters, such as by environmental DNA survey techniques.  If and when this occurs, critical habitat can be designated following implementing regulations 50 CFR § 424.12, provision 5(f). Click here for the PDF: Ppristis-range-in-the-U.S-Seitz-and-Waters-2018

sawtooth 082218

 

Seitz, J.C. and J.D. Waters.  2018.  Clarifying the range of the endangered largetooth sawfish in the United States.  Gulf and Caribbean Research 29:15–22.

 

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Jul
26

In Search of Absolute Sharkness During Shark Week: Swimming with Whale Sharks

Every year, from May through September, whale sharks congregate in a small area off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico where the Mexican Caribbean meets the Gulf of Mexico.  They are attracted to this area due to upwelling of cool, nutrient-rich water (the Yucatan Current) that encourages relatively high densities of zooplankton near the surface.  These largest of all living fishes are planktivores.  They use both ram-feeding and vacuum-feeding strategies to capture tiny organisms (about 2 mm and up [Anonymous 2010]) and small schooling fishes.  The upwelling of the Yucatan Current off the peninsula is productive enough that whale sharks, locally known as tiburones ballena, (Rhincodon typus in scientific lingo) are thought to travel from all corners of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean during summer to this tiny feeding ground to feast on the abundant food there. 

For those of us interested in the hydrographics behind the upwelling, this paragraph is for us!  The Yucatan Current north of Cape Catoche, Holbox Island, experiences bottom friction at depths of 220 to 250 meters along the Yucatan Shelf, probably due to the underwater presence of one or more seamounts.  The current glances of the seamounts and then rises at a rate of 2 to 10 meters per second towards the surface.  In the summer months, the upwelling creates a two-layered water column, with the upwelled water moving westward across the shelf and creating a cyclonic gyre north of Cape Catoche (Merino 1997).  This process is strongest during summer, resulting in the upwelled water occasionally breaking the surface and providing nutrients for plankton to thrive.

This year, ANAMAR senior biologist Jason Seitz traveled to the Yucatan to experience for himself these beautiful and harmless sharks.  He and his wife, Jenny, arrived by ferry in Holbox Island in Quintana Roo in July and took three excursions out to the whale shark feeding ground north of Cape Catoche to swim with the gentle giants.  As luck would have it, they were not only able to swim with several large whale sharks, but also were fortunate enough to swim with another amazing beast—the giant manta! 

See the photographs above of the whale shark and manta (Mobula cf. birostris) encounter that Jason and Jenny experienced off Holbox Island and view the video below.  Enjoy!

All the photographs and the video are by the author, Jason Seitz.

Sources

Merino, M.  1997. Upwelling on the Yucatan Shelf: hydrographic evidence.  Journal of Marine Systems 13:101–121.

Anonymous.  2010.  Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus, Mexico.  Deep Motion, Redwood City, CA.

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Apr
24

ANAMAR Senior Biologist Teams with Other Fish Experts in Producing the First Estimates of Age and Growth in Wild Southern Stingrays (Hypanus americanus)

stingray w caption FILEminimizer

A 2018 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Gulf and Caribbean Research represents a collaborative effort between ANAMAR biologist Jason Seitz and colleagues at the University of New England and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.  Southern stingrays (Hypanus americanus, previously Dasyatis americana) were sampled and measured at fishing tournaments from 2004 and 2012 in Charlotte Harbor, Florida.  Vertebral centra obtained from the stingrays were sectioned and mounted on slides, and their growth bands were counted by two independent readers.  A total of 18 female southern stingrays, measuring from 412 to 1127 mm disc width (DW) were aged.  Ages ranged from 0 to 17 years.  The results suggest that southern stingrays obtain relatively old ages (17 years) and large sizes (to at least 1127 mm DW).  The results are comparable to other large stingray species such as the brown stingray (Bathytoshia lata; to at least 24 years and 1790 mm DW) and the common stingray (Dasyatis pastinaca; to at least 16 years and 1140 mm DW).  The results are also comparable to size-at-width data from a captive population of southern stingrays (13 years for a 1000-mm DW captive female, compared to an estimated 12 years for a 1005-mm DW wild female in this study).  The age-at-width estimates given in the 2018 study provide a preliminary foundation for future studies on age and growth of southern stingrays for the generation of mortality rates, production rates, and growth models, such as a Von Bertalanffy growth function or a Gompertz function, once ages of each life stage are obtained.  This study is the first investigation of the age-at-widths of wild southern stingrays. 

Here is a link to the open-access paper: Southern-stingray-age-and-growth-FINAL-2018

Source

Hayne, A.H.P., G.R. Poulakis, J.C. Seitz, and J.A. Sulikowski.  2018.  Preliminary age estimates for female Southern Stingrays (Hypanus americanus) from southwestern Florida, USA.  Gulf and Caribbean Research 29:SC1–4.  DOI:10.18785/gcr.2901.03  

 

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Apr
22

Florida’s Introduced Nonindigenous and Invasive Amphibians and Reptiles: Part 2 of a 3-part Series on Biological Invasions in Florida

Florida’s Introduced Nonindigenous and Invasive Amphibians and Reptiles: Part 2 of a 3-part Series on Biological Invasions in Florida

This article discusses the species of introduced herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) of Florida’s terrestrial and aquatic habitats along with a general discussion of the possible effects of biological invasions on native wildlife and habitats.  The first part of this three-part series was on introduced fishes in the state.  The final part of the series will be on introduced mollusks (bivalves and gastropods, or clams and snails & slugs) of Florida.  

As of this writing, at least 110 species of nonindigenous herpetofauna (colloquially called ‘herptiles’ for short) representing 34 families have been introduced to Florida (Exhibits 1 and 4).  Of the species introduced to Florida, about 43% are now considered to have established breeding populations in one or more counties (Exhibit 2).  This amounts to 47 established herptile species in Florida as of this writing.  Both urban and natural areas of Florida are affected by these biological invaders.  For example, the first reticulated python (Python reticulatus) observed in Florida was during the 1980s, where it was seen living under a house in Miami.  This species has since been observed and (or) collected in several other areas of Florida, although it is not known whether the species has established self-sustaining breeding populations (Exhibit 3). Lizards are the most successful group and account for the majority (72%) of established herptiles in Florida today.  The list in Exhibit 4 below contains the species known to have been introduced, although it is important to note that new species are introduced on a regular basis in Florida, so the list is constantly expanding.  Most introduced herptiles are native to the tropics (Wilson and Porras 1983).  The fact that Florida’s climate is subtropical is a major reason why many introduced species have successfully established themselves in the state.  Nonindigenous herptiles have been introduced via a variety of mechanisms:

  • Stowaways in shipments of ornamental plants or produce
  • Intentional or accidental release by pet dealers or owners
  • Intentional or accidental release from zoological parks
  • Intentional release by government agencies to combat nuisance organisms

Exhibit 1 of JCS Introduced Herps Writeup 030515

 

 

Exhibit 2 of JCS Introduced Herps Writeup 030515

 

 

Exhibit 3 Revised JCS Introduced Herps 030615

 

 Wilson and Porras predicted in the early 1980s that southern Florida would eventually be overrun with introduced exotic wildlife.  The current trends in established and spreading introduced species suggest that these authors may have been right. 

Reducing the effects of invasive nonindigenous species is an important part of restoration and management efforts in natural areas of Florida, United States, and worldwide, as these species cause significant stress to native ecosystems (Adams and Steigerwalt 2010) and biological invasion is widely viewed as a major cause of the reduction in native plant and animal diversity (Elton 1958, Wilcove et al. 1998).  Invasive species are known to affect most natural areas of the United States (Villazon 2009) and worldwide (Sala et al. 2000).

It should go without saying that the intentional introduction of any nonindigenous species, whether it be a plant or animal and regardless of size or assumed innocuousness, should never be attempted.  The reasons are many and the costs can be severe, both in terms of biological effects and economic impacts.  Nonindigenous species introduced to new areas have the capacity to explode in numbers and outcompete native species for limited resources such as food, water, and shelter.  Native species are at a competitive disadvantage because they have not had time to evolve defense mechanisms that would otherwise allow them to successfully compete against the introduced species.  The competition between native and nonindigenous species can result in the extinction of native species, the spread of diseases and parasites, displacement of whole communities, and may even cause physical changes to the environment.  

 

Exhibit 4.  Nonindigenous amphibians and reptiles recorded in Florida.

Scientific Name

Common Name

Locality Records

Current Status

ANURA

FROGS & TOADS

 

 

BOMBINATORIDAE

FIRE-BELLIED TOADS

 

 

Bombina orientalis

Oriental Fire-bellied Toad

Broward Co.

Unknown

BUFONIDAE

AMERICAN TOADS

 

 

Atelopus zeteki

Panamanian Golden Frog

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Duttaphrynus melanostictus

Southeast Asian Toad

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Rhaebo blombergi

Columbian Giant Toad

Broward Co. (1963)

Failed

Rhinella marina

Cane Toad

Southern Florida, portions of central and northern Florida

Established (southern FL)

Unknown (elsewhere)

ELEUTERODACTYLIDAE

RAINFROGS

 

 

Eleutherodactylus coqui

Coqui

Miami-Dade Co.

Established

Eleutherodactylus planirostris

Greenhouse Frog

Throughout most of Florida

Established (throughout)

Eleutherodactylus portoricensis

Forest Coqui

Miami-Dade Co. (1964)

Collected

HYLIDAE

TREEFROGS

 

 

Litoria caerulea

Australian Green Treefrog

Broward, Collier, & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

Osteopilus septentrionalis

Cuban Treefrog

Throughout most of Florida

Established (most of FL)

Pachymedusa dacnicolor

Mexican Leaf Frog

Miami-Dade Co. (1964)

Failed

Pseudacris sierra

Sierran Chorus Frog

Hillsborough & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown


 

HYPEROLIIDAE

SEDGE AND BUSH FROGS

 

 

Afrixalus fornasini

Fornasini's Spiny Reed Frog

Broward Co.

Failed

MICROHYLIDAE

NARROWMOUTH TOADS

 

 

Kaloula pulchra

Malaysian Painted Frog

Broward Co.

Unknown

PIPIDAE

TONGUELESS FROGS

 

 

Hymenochirus boettgeri

Zaire Dwarf Clawed Frog

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Xenopus laevis

African Clawed Frog

Brevard, Hillsborough, & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

AMPHIUMIDAE

AQUATIC SALAMANDERS

 

 

Amphiuma tridactylum

Three-toed Amphiuma

Broward Co.

Unknown

SALAMANDRIDAE

TRUE SALAMANDERS AND NEWTS

 

 

Cynops orientalis

Oriental Fire-bellied Newt

Broward & Sumter Co.

Unknown (Broward Co.)

Collected (Sumter Co.)

Cynops pyrrhogaster

Japanese Fire-bellied Salamander

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens

Red-spotted Newt

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Pachytriton labiatus

Paddle-Tail Newt

Broward Co.

Failed

TESTUDINES

TURTLES & TORTOISES

 

 

BATAGURIDAE

BATAGURID TURTLES

 

 

Ocadia sinensis

Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle

 Alachua Co. (1972)

Eradicated

Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima

Central American Ornate Wood Turtle

Manatee Co.

Failed

Rhinoclemmys punctularia

Spot-legged Wood Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miccosukee Indian Reservation)

Collected (Parrot Jungle Trail, Jungle Island)

CHELIDAE

SOUTH AMERICAN SIDE-NECKED TURTLES

 

 

Chelus fimbriatus

Matamata

Broward Co.

Failed

Platemys platycephala

Twist-necked Turtle

Collier Co.

Collected

EMYDIDAE

POND TURTLES

 

 

Chrysemys dorsalis

Southern Painted Turtle

Alachua & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

Chrysemys picta

Western Painted Turtle

Jackson, Miami-Dade, & Orange Co.

Unknown (Jackson Co.)

Failed (Miami-Dade Co.)

Collected (Orange Co.)

Glyptemys insculpta

Wood Turtle

St. Johns Co.

Failed

Graptemys barbouri

Barbour's Map Turtle

Leon Co.

Collected

Graptemys ernsti

Escambia Map Turtle

Orange Co.

Unknown

Graptemys ouachitensis

Ouachita Map Turtle

Miami-Dade & Palm Beach Co.

Collected (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Palm Beach Co.)

Graptemys pseudogeographica

False Map Turtle

Brevard, Columbia, Gilchrist, & Miami-Dade Co.

Failed (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Trachemys dorbigni

Brazilian Slider

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Trachemys scripta callirostris

Columbian Slider

Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.

Failed (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Monroe Co.)

Trachemys scripta elegans

Red-eared Slider

Throughout most of Florida

Established (throughout)

Trachemys scripta scripta

Yellow-bellied Slider

Broward, Lee, & Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Lee Co.)

Unknown (Broward & Miami-Dade Co.

Trachemys stejnegeri malonei

Inagua Slider

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

KINOSTERNIDAE

MUD & MUSK TURTLES

 

 

Kinosternon scorpioides

Scorpion Mud Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Staurotypus salvinii

Pacific Coast giant musk turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

Pelusios subniger

East African Black Mud Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Collected

PELOMEDUSIDAE

AFRICAN SIDE-NECKED TURTLES

 

 

Podocnemis lewyana

Magdalena River Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Podocnemis sextuberculata

Six-tubercled River turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Podocnemis unifilis

Yellow-spotted River Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

TESTUDINIDAE

LAND TORTOISES

 

 

Chelonoidis denticulata

Yellowfoot Tortoise

Collier Co.

Collected

TRIONYCHIDAE

SOFTSHELL TURTLES

 

 

Apalone spinifera

Spiny Softshell

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

CROCODYLIA

CROCODILES & ALLIGATORS

 

 

ALLIGATORIDAE

ALLIGATORS

 

 

Caiman crocodilus

Spectacled Caiman

Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, & Seminole Co.

Established (Broward & Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Paleosuchus palpebrosus

Cuvier's Smooth-fronted Caiman

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Paleosuchus trigonatus

Schneider's Smooth-fronted Caiman

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

CROCODYLIDAE

CROCODILES

 

 

Crocodylus niloticus

Nile Crocodile

Hendry & Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Mecistops cataphractus

African Slender-snouted Crocodile

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

SQUAMATA

AMPHISBAENIANS, LIZARDS, & SNAKES

 

 

CORYTOPHANIDAE

HELMET LIZARDS

 

 

Basiliscus vittatus

Brown Basilisk

Nine counties in southern FL

Established (Broward, Collier, Glades, Indian River, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, & St. Lucie Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

IGUANIDAE

IGUANAS

 

 

Ctenosaura pectinata

Mexican Spinytail Iguana

Broward & Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Broward Co.)

Ctenosaura similis

Black Spinytail Iguana

Nine coastal counties in southern FL

Established (most coastal counties in southern FL)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Iguana iguana

Green Iguana

Throughout coastal southern FL and along Lake Okeechobee, isolated areas elsewhere in FL

Established (many coastal counties in southern FL)

Unknown (northern & central FL)

PHRYNOSOMATIDAE

NORTH AMERICAN SPINY LIZARDS

 

 

Phrynosoma cornutum

Texas Horned Lizard

Spottily distributed throughout FL

Established (Duval Co. & western panhandle coastal areas)

Unknown (elsewhere)

POLYCHROTIDAE

ANOLES

 

 

Anolis chlorocyanus

Hispaniolan Green Anole

Broward & Palm Beach Co.

Established (Broward Co.)

Unknown (Palm Beach Co.)

Anolis cristatellus

Puerto Rican Crested Anole

Broward & Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Broward Co.)

Anolis cybotes

Largehead Anole

Miami-Dade, Broward, & Martin Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Broward & Martin Co.)

Anolis distichus

Bark Anole

Most of coastal southern FL

Established (most of coastal southern FL)

Anolis equestris

Knight Anole

Most of coastal southern FL, spottily distributed in inland counties

Established (most of coastal southern FL)

Anolis garmani

Jamaican Giant Anole

Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Anolis porcatus

Cuban Green Anole

Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.

Possible hybridization with A. carolinensis (Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.)

Anolis sagrei

Brown Anole

Throughout peninsula and in at least 6 counties in panhandle

Established (most of FL)

Anolis trinitatis

St. Vincent Bush Anole

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

TROPIDURIDAE

LAVA LIZARDS

 

 

Leiocephalus carinatus

Northern Curlytail Lizard

15 counties in peninsular FL

Established to unknown throughout

Leiocephalus schreibersii

Red-sided Curlytail Lizard

Broward, Charlotte, & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

AGAMIDAE

AGAMID LIZARDS

 

 

Agama agama

African Rainbow Lizard

9 counties in peninsular FL

Established to unknown throughout

Calotes cf. versicolor

Variable Bloodsucker

Broward & St. Lucie Co.

Unknown (Broward Co.)

Established (St. Lucie Co.)

Leiolepis bellinana

Butterfly Lizard

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown (Miami-Dade Co.)

CHAMAELEONIDAE

CHAMELEONS

 

 

Chamaeleo calyptratus

Veiled Chameleon

Alachua, Collier, Lee, & Hendry Co.

Unknown (Alachua & Collier Co.)

Established (Hendry & Miami-Dade Co.)

Furcifer oustaleti

Oustalet’s Chameleon

Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

SPHAERODACTYLIDAE

NEW WORLD GECKOS

 

 

Gonatodes albogularis

Yellowhead Gecko

Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, & St. Lucie Co.

Likely established (Monroe Co.)

Failed (Broward, Miami-Dade, & St. Lucie Co.)

Sphaerodactylus argus

Ocellated Gecko

Monroe Co.

Established

Sphaerodactylus elegans

Ashy Gecko

Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.

Established (Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.)

GEKKONIDAE

WALL GECKOS

 

 

Gekko badenii

Golden Gecko

Broward Co. (Hollywood)

Unknown

Gekko gecko

Tokay Gecko

Spottily distributed between FL Keys north to Tallahassee

Established (spottily between FL Keys to Tallahassee)

Hemidactylus frenatus

Common House Gecko

Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.

Established (Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.)

Hemidactylus garnotti

Indo-Pacific House Gecko

Throughout southern, central, & northern FL peninsula; a few counties in panhandle

Established (throughout peninsula)

Unknown (panhandle)

Hemidactylus mabouia

Tropical House Gecko

Throughout southern FL, also parts of central and northern FL

Established (southern FL, parts of central and northern FL)

Hemidactylus platyurus

Asian Flat-tailed House Gecko

Alachua, Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, & Pinellas Co.

Established (locally in vicinity of reptile dealerships)

Hemidactylus turcicus

Mediterranean Gecko

Throughout FL

Established (throughout)

Lepidodactylus lugubris

Mourning Gecko

Lee, Miami-Dade, & St. Lucie Co.

Unknown

Phelsuma grandis

Madagascar Giant Day Gecko

Broward, Lee, Monroe, & Palm Beach Co.

Established (Monroe & Palm Beach Co.)

Unknown (Broward & Lee Co.)

PHYLLODACTYLIDAE

PHYLLODACTYLID GECKOS

 

 

Tarentola annularis

Ringed Wall Gecko

Lee, Leon, Broward, & Miami-Dade Co.

Eradicated (Leon Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Tarentola mauritanica

Moorish Gecko

Broward Co.; possibly Lee & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

TEIIDAE

WHIPTAILS

 

 

Ameiva ameiva

Giant Ameiva

Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.

Established (Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.)

Aspidoscelis motaguae (formerly Cnemidophorus motaguae)

Giant Whiptail

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown, possibly established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Cnemidophorus lemniscatus complex

Rainbow Whiptail

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown, possibly established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Tupinambis merianae

Argentine Giant Tegu

Southern FL, spottily recorded in central and northern FL

Established (Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, & Polk Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

SCINCIDAE

SKINKS

 

 

Chalcides ocellatus

Ocellated Skink

Pasco & Broward Co.

Established (both counties)

Eutropis multifasciata

Many-lined Sun Skink

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

Trachylepis quinquetaeniata

African Five-lined Skink

St. Lucie Co.

Unknown

VARANIDAE

MONITORS

 

 

Varanus albigularis

White-throated Monitor

Miami-Dade, Monroe, Osceola, & Palm-Beach Co.

Unknown

Varanus doreanus

Blue-tailed Monitor

Indian River Co.

Unknown

Varanus exanthematicus

Savannah Monitor

Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Marian, Miami-Dade, Orange, Polk, Sarasota, & Seminole Co.

Unknown

Varanus jobiensis

Peach-throated Monitor

Palm Beach & Polk Co.

Unknown

Varanus niloticus

Nile Monitor

Southern FL, parts of central and northern FL

Established (Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, & Palm Beach Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Varanus salvator

Water Monitor

Alachua, Broward, Pinellas, & St. Johns Co.

Unknown

Varanus salvadorii

Crocodile Monitor

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

ACROCHORDIDAE

WORT SNAKES

 

 

Acrochordus javanicus

Javan File Snake

Broward & Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Broward Co.)

BOIDAE

BOAS

 

 

Boa constrictor

Boa Constrictor

Southern FL, parts of central and northern FL

Established (Miami-Dade Co. at Charles Deering Estate)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Eunectes murinus

Green Anaconda

Collier & Osceola Co., possibly Monroe Co.

Collected (Collier & Osceola Co.)

Unknown (Monroe Co.)

Eunectes notaeus

Yellow Anaconda

Collier, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.

Collected (Monroe Co.)

Unknown (Collier & Miami-Dade Co.)

PYTHONIDAE

PYTHONS

 

 

Python bivittatus

Burmese Python

Southern FL, parts of central and northern FL

Established (Broward, Collier, Hendry, Miami-Dade, Monroe, & Palm Beach Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Python regius

Ball Python

Collier Co.

Unknown

Python reticulatus

Reticulated Python

Broward, Collier, Manatee, Miami-Dade, & Pinellas Co.

Unknown

Python sebae

Northern African Rock Python

Miami-Dade & Sarasota Co.

Established: Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown: Sarasota Co.

COLUBRIDAE

COLUBRID SNAKES

 

 

Erpeton tentaculatus

Tentacled Snake

Broward Co.

Failed

TYPHLOPIDAE

BLINDSNAKES

 

 

Ramphotyphlops braminus

Brahminy Blindsnake

Central & southern FL, spottily distributed in northern FL

Established (southern, central, portions of northern FL)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Sources: Florida Museum of Natural History (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/florida-amphibians-reptiles/checklist-atlas/), USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species online database (http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/SpeciesList.aspx?group=Amphibians&state=FL&Sortby=1), Krysko et al. (2011), J.C.Seitz unpublished data.

 

 Sources:

Adams, C.R. and N.M. Steigerwalt.  2010.  Research Needs and Logistic Impediments in Restoration, Enhancement, and Management Projects: A Survey of Land Managers. Publication ENH1161 [online resource].  Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.  Accessed 11/21/10 at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep423.

Elton, C.S.  1958.  The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants.  Methuen and Co., Ltd., Strand, London.

Florida Museum of Natural History.  2014.  Checklist & Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Florida [online resource].  Accessed 02/24/15 at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/florida-amphibians-reptiles/checklist-atlas/.

Krysko, K.L., K.M. Enge, P.E. Moler.  2011.  Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Florida.  Project Agreement 08013, report submitted to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL.

Sala, O.E. F.S. Chapin, J.J. Armesto, E. Berlow, J. Bloomfield, R. Dirzo, E. Huber-Sanwald, L.F. Huenneke, R.B. Jackson, A. Kinzig, R. Leemans, D.M. Lodge, H.A. Mooney, M. Oesterheld, N.L. Poff, M.T. Sykes, B.H. Walker, M. Walker, and D.H. Wall.  2000.  Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100.  Science 287:1770–1774.

U.S. Geological Survey.  2015.  NAS – Nonindigenous Aquatic Species [online resource].  Accessed 03/03/15 at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/CollectionInfo.aspx?SpeciesID=963&State=FL.

Villazon, K.A.  2009.  Methods to Restore Native Plant Communities after Invasive Species Removal: Marl Prairie Ponds and an Abandoned Phosphate Mine in Florida.  MS thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Wilcove, D.S., D. Rothstein, J. Dubow, A. Phillips, and E. Losos.  1998.  Quantifying threats to imperiled species in the United States. Bioscience 48:607–615.

Wilson, L.D. and L. Porras.  1983.  The Ecological Impact of Man on the South Florida Herpetofauna.  The University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Special Publication No. 9, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

 

 

 

 

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Jan
13

Florida’s Introduced Nonindigenous and Invasive Fishes: Part 1 of a 3-part Series on Biological Invasions in Florida

This article discusses the species of introduced fishes in Florida’s freshwater and marine habitats, along with a general discussion of biological invasions as a potential driver of loss-of-habitat functions.  Future articles in the series will discuss introduced mollusks (bivalves and gastropods) and herptiles (amphibians and reptiles) of Florida.

Waterbodies such as streams, lakes, ponds, and oceans are well known for their habitat functions, especially their ability to support aquatic wildlife by providing sustenance and shelter.  A myriad of animals, from tiny arthropods to 12-meter-long whale sharks, rely on native organisms as food.   Many waterbodies support some of the most productive habitats in the world, providing food and shelter for mollusks, crustaceans, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, and often serve as vital nursery grounds for these species.  Others are nutrient-poor and relatively unproductive.  Nevertheless, hundreds of imperiled species require aquatic habitats for survival.  Along with their threatened or endangered wildlife, waterbodies themselves are threatened in many ways.  Anthropogenic disturbances include groundwater depletion, reallocation of surface water, nutrient inputs, habitat fragmentation, fire suppression, pollution, land use changes, overharvesting, climate change, dredging, and the introduction of nonindigenous plants and animals (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1 of JCS Introduced Fishes Writeup 012815

Reducing the effects of invasive nonindigenous species is an important part of restoration and management efforts in natural areas of Florida, the United States, and worldwide.  These species cause significant stress to native ecosystems (Adams and Steigerwalt 2010), and biological invasion is widely viewed as a major cause of the reduction in native plant and animal diversity (Elton 1958, Wilcove et al. 1998).  Invasive species are known to affect most natural areas of the United States (Villazon 2009) and worldwide (Sala et al. 2000), and aquatic habitats are particularly susceptible to nonindigenous species due in part to the fact that aquatic habitats act as biological sinks, receiving plant and animal genetic material from upstream sources.

As of this writing, at least 192 species of fishes representing 42 families have been introduced to Florida (Exhibit 2).  Nearly all waterbodies are affected by fish introductions, from small wetlands to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida.  The list below contains the species known to have been introduced, although it is important to note that new species are introduced on a regular basis in Florida, so the list is constantly expanding.  Many species ultimately fail to gain a foothold in Florida, while a smaller number of species successfully establish themselves.  Some have spread like a cancer across the state.  The Brown Hoplo (Hoplosternum littorale) is an example of an introduction that is now established throughout the peninsula of Florida, much to the detriment of native aquatic species that have not had time to adapt to this new competitor for limited resources.  Marine habitats are not immune to biological invasions.  The detrimental effects of the (likely intentional) introduction of two species of invasive lionfishes (Red Lionfish and Devil Firefish [Pterois volitans and P. miles]) are still being determined but likely include direct predation on native fishes, crabs, and shrimps and competition with native reef species for limited resources.  Red Lionfish and Devil Firefish are now firmly established throughout the Atlantic coast of Florida and are actively invading much of the Gulf of Mexico.  The spread of lionfishes throughout the western North Atlantic Ocean is occurring at an unprecedented rate (see Exhibit 3) (Schofield 2010).  Many of the introduced fishes in Florida are from tropical or subtropical areas of Asia and South America, and to a lesser extent, Africa (Idelberger et al. 2010).  The fact that Florida’s climate is also subtropical is a major reason why many introduced species have successfully established themselves in the state. 

It should go without saying that the intentional introduction of any nonindigenous species, whether it be a plant or animal and regardless of size or assumed innocuousness, should never be attempted.  The reasons are many and the costs can be severe, both in terms of biological effects and economic impacts.  Nonindigenous species introduced to new areas have the capacity to explode in numbers and outcompete native species for limited resources such as food, water, and shelter.  Native species are at a competitive disadvantage because they have not had time to evolve defense mechanisms that would otherwise allow them to successfully compete against the introduced species.  The competition between native and nonindigenous species can result in the extinction of native species, the spread of diseases and parasites, and the displacement of whole communities, and may even cause physical changes to the environment. 

Exhibit 2.  Freshwater and marine nonindigenous fishes recorded from Florida.

Scientific Name

Common Name

Locality Records

Current Status

ACANTHURIDAE

SURGEONFISHES

 

 

Acanthurus guttatus

Whitespotted Surgeonfish

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Acanthurus pyroferus

Chocolate Surgeonfish

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Acanthurus sohal

Red Sea Surgeonfish

Atlantic Ocean off Broward County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Naso lituratus

Orangespine Unicornfish

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Zebrasoma desjardinii

Sailfin Tang

Atlantic Ocean off Broward County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Zebrasoma flavescens

Yellow Tang

Atlantic Ocean off Broward, Monroe, & Palm Beach counties

Established off Monroe County, unknown elsewhere

Zebrasoma scopas

Brown Tang

Atlantic Ocean off Broward County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Zebrasoma veliferum

Sailfin Tang

Atlantic Ocean off Monroe & Palm Beach counties

Unknown

Zebrasoma xanthurum

Yellowtail Tang

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown

ANABANTIDAE

CLIMBING GOURAMIES

 

 

Anabas testudineus

Climbing Perch

Manatee County

Extirpated

Ctenopoma nigropannosum

Twospot Climbing Perch

Manatee County

Extirpated

ANOSTOMIDAE

HEADSTANDERS

 

 

Leporinus fasciatus

Banded Leporinus

Miami-Dade County

Failed

BALISTIDAE

TRIGGERFISHES

   

Balistoides conspicillum

Clown Triggerfish

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Rhinecanthus aculeatus

Lagoon Triggerfish

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Rhinecanthus verrucosus

Bursa Triggerfish

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown, not likely to be established

BLENNIIDAE

BLENNIES

 

 

Hypsoblennius invemar

Tessellated Blenny

Atlantic and Gulf coasts off Bay, Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, & Palm Beach counties

Established

CALLICHTHYIDAE

ARMORED CATFISHES

 

 

Callichthys callichthys

Cascarudo

Palm Beach County, Boca Raton

Failed

Corydoras sp.

Corydoras

Miami-Dade County, elsewhere

Failed

Hoplosternum littorale

Brown Hoplo

Most of peninsular Florida

Established

CENTRARCHIDAE

SUNFISHES

 

 

Ambloplites rupestris

Rock Bass

Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, & Walton counties

Established

CHAETODONTIDAE

BUTTERFLYFISHES

 

 

Chaetodon lunula

Raccoon Butterflyfish

Atlantic Ocean off Broward & Palm Beach counties

Unknown

Heniochus diphreutes

Schooling Bannerfish

Atlantic Ocean off Broward County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Heniochus intermedius

Red Sea Bannerfish

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown, not likely to be established

Heniochus sp.

Bannerfish

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown

CHANNIDAE

SNAKEHEADS

 

 

Channa argus

Northern Snakehead

Seminole & Volusia counties

Failed

Channa marulius

Bullseye Snakehead

Broward County

Established

CHARACIDAE

TETRAS

 

 

Aphyocharax anisitsi

Bloodfin Tetra

Hillsborough County

Failed

Colossoma macropomum

Tambaqui

Alachua, Bay, Broward, Leon, Pinellas, St. Lucie & Volusia counties

Failed

Colossoma or Piaractus sp.

Unidentified Pacu

Alachua, Broward, Citrus, DeSoto, Duval, Escambia, Holmes, Indian River, Marion, Miami-Dade, Pinellas, & Volusia counties

Failed

Gymnocorymbus ternetzi

Black Tetra

Hillsborough County

Failed

Hyphessobrycon eques

Serpae Tetra

Bay County

Failed

Metynnis sp.

Metynnis

Collier & Martin counties, elsewhere

Established (Martin Co.)

Failed (Collier Co.)

Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae

Redeye Tetra

Hillsborough County

Failed

Piaractus brachypomus

Pirapatinga, Red-Bellied Pacu

Alachua, Brevard, DeSoto, Hillsborough, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Sarasota, St. Lucie, & Walton counties

Unknown (Monroe Co.)

Failed (all other counties)

Piaractus mesopotamicus

Small-Scaled Pacu

Lee County

Failed

Pygocentrus nattereri

Red Piranha

Miami-Dade & Palm Beach counties

Failed (Miami-Dade Co.)

Eradicated (Palm-Beach Co.)

Pygocentrus or Serrasalmus sp.

Unidentified Piranha

Florida (not specified)

Collected

Serrasalmus rhombeus

White Piranha

Alachua & Miami-Dade counties, elsewhere

Eradicated to failed

CICHLIDAE

CICHLIDS

 

 

Aequidens pulcher

Blue Acara

Hillsborough County

Extirpated

Amphilophus citrinellus

Midas Cichlid

Alachua, Broward, Hillsborough, & Miami-Dade counties

Failed (Alachua Co.)

Established (elsewhere)

Archocentrus nigrofasciatus

Convict Cichlid

Alachua & Miami-Dade counties, elsewhere

Failed or eradicated throughout

Astatotilapia calliptera

Eastern Happy

Broward & Palm Beach counties

Established (both counties)

Astronotus ocellatus

Oscar

Much of southern FL

Established

Cichla ocellaris

Butterfly Peacock Bass

Much of southern FL

Established

Cichla temensis

Speckled Pavon

Palm Beach County, elsewhere in southern FL

Failed

Cichlasoma bimaculatum

Black Acara

Much of southern FL

Established

Cichlasoma octofasciata

Jack Dempsey

Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Hillsborough, Indian River, Levy, Manatee, & Palm Beach counties

Established (most counties)

Cichlasoma salvini

Yellowbelly Cichlid

Broward & Miami-Dade counties

Established

Cichlasoma trimaculatum

Threespot Cichlid

Hillsborough & Manatee counties

Failed (Hillsborough Co.)

Extirpated (Manatee Co.)

Cichlasoma urophthalmus

Mayan Cichlid

Much of southern Florida

Established

Geophagus sp.

Eartheater

Miami-Dade County

Failed

Hemichromis letourneuxi

African Jewelfish

Much of southern Florida

Established

Herichthys cyanoguttatum

Rio Grande Cichlid

Brevard, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pinellas, & Polk counties

Established

Heros severus

Banded Cichlid

Broward & Miami-Dade counties

Established

Melanochromis auratus

Golden Mbuna

Hillsborough County

Unknown

Oreochromis aureus

Blue Tilapia

Much of peninsular FL

Established

Oreochromis mossambicus

Mozambique Tilapia

Much of peninsular FL

Established

Oreochromis niloticus

Nile Tilapia

Alachua, Brevard, Gadsden, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Jackson, Osceola, Putnam, & Sarasota counties

Established (Alachua Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Oreochromis sp.

Tilapia Species

Brevard County

Unknown

Oreochromis, Sarotherodon, Tilapia sp.

Tilapia

Glades County, elsewhere

Collected

Parachromis managuensis

Jaguar Guapote

Much of southern FL

Established

Pseudotropheus socolofi

Pindani

Miami-Dade County

Extirpated

Pterophyllum scalare

Freshwater Angelfish

Palm Beach County

Failed

Sarotherodon melanotheron

Blackchin Tilapia

Much of southern FL

Established

Telmatochromis bifrenatus

Lake Tanganyika Dwarf Cichlid

Oklawaha County

Failed

Thorichthys meeki

Firemouth Cichlid

Brevard, Broward, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Miami-Dade, & Palm Beach counties

Established (Broward Co.)

Failed or extirpated (elsewhere)

Tilapia buttikoferi

Zebra Tilapia

Miami-Dade County

Established

Tilapia mariae

Spotted Tilapia

Much of southern FL

Established

Tilapia sp.

Unidentified Tilapia

Brevard County

Established

Tilapia sparrmanii

Banded Tilapia

Hillsborough County, elsewhere

Failed

Tilapia zillii

Redbelly Tilapia

Brevard, Lake, Miami-Dade, & Polk counties

Established (Brevard & Miami-Dade Co.)

Extirpated or failed (elsewhere)

CLARIIDAE

LABYRINTH CATFISHES

 

 

Clarias batrachus

Walking Catfish

Much of southern FL

Established

COBITIDAE

LOACHES

 

 

Misgurnus anguillicaudatus

Oriental Weatherfish

Much of southern FL

Established

Pangio kuhlii

Coolie Loach

Hillsborough County

Failed

CYPRINIDAE

CARPS AND MINNOWS

 

 

Barbonymus schwanenfeldii

Tinfoil Barb

Palm Beach County, elsewhere

Failed

Carassius auratus

Goldfish

Alachua, Clay, Miami-Dade, & Putnam counties

Unknown

Ctenopharyngodon idella

Grass Carp

Throughout FL

Stocked as triploid, no evidence of establishment

Cyprinus carpio

Common Carp

Much of northern FL

Established

Danio rerio

Zebra Danio

Hillsborough & Palm Beach counties

Failed

Devario malabaricus

Malabar Danio

Hillsborough & Miami-Dade counties, elsewhere

Failed

Hybopsis cf. winchelli

Undescribed Clear Chub

Gadsden County

Failed

Hypophthalmichthys nobilis

 

Bighead Carp

Bay & Palm Beach counties

Failed

Labeo chrysophekadion

Black Sharkminnow, Black Labeo

Not specified

Failed

Leuciscus idus

Ide

Not specified

Failed

Luxilus chrysocephalus isolepis

Striped Shiner

Escambia & Santa Rosa counties

Established

Nocomis leptocephalus bellicus

Bluehead Chub

Escambia & Santa Rosa counties

Established

Notemigonus crysoleucas

Golden Shiner

Ochlocknee drainage

Established

Notropis baileyi

Rough Shiner

Escambia & Santa Rosa counties

Established

Notropis harperi

Redeye Chub

Leon County

Failed

Pethia conchonius

Rosy Barb

Palm Beach County, elsewhere

Failed

Pethia gelius

Dwarf Barb

Palm Beach County, elsewhere

Failed

Pimephales promelas

Fathead Minnow

Hillsborough, Leon, Marion, Palm Beach, & Polk counties

Unknown or extirpated throughout

Systomus tetrazona

Tiger Barb

Miami-Dade County, elsewhere

Failed

Tinca tinca

Tench

Unspecified

Failed

DORADIDAE

THORNY CATFISHES

 

 

Oxydoras niger

Ripsaw Catfish

Miami-Dade County

Failed

Platydoras costatus

Raphael Catfish

Unspecified

Collected

Pterodoras granulosus

Granulated Catfish

Pinellas County

Failed

Pterodoras sp.

Thorny Catfish

Pinellas County

Failed

Platax orbicularis

Orbiculate Batfish

Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, & Palm Beach counties

Eradicated to unknown

ERYTHRINIDAE

TRAHIRAS

 

 

Hoplias malabaricus

Trahira

Hillsborough County

Eradicated

GRAMMATIDAE

BASSLETS

 

 

Gramma loreto

Fairy Basslet

Atlantic Ocean off Broward, Monroe, Palm Beach, & Duval counties; also in Gulf of Mexico (unspecified counties)

Established (throughout)

HELOSTOMATIDAE

KISSING GOURAMIES

 

 

Helostoma temminkii

Kissing Gourami

Hillsborough & Palm Beach counties

Failed

HEMISCYLLIIDAE

BAMBOOSHARKS

 

 

Chiloscyllium punctatum

Brownbanded Bambooshark

Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County

Unknown, not likely to be established

HEPTAPTERIDAE

SEVEN-FINNED CATFISHES

 

 

Rhamdia quelen

Bagre

Miami-Dade County

Failed

Rhamdia sp.

Bagre De Rio

Miami-Dade County

Unknown

ICTALURIDAE

NORTH AMERICAN CATFISHES

 

 

Ictalurus furcatus

Blue Catfish

Calhoun, Escambia, Gilchrist, Okaloosa, & Washington counties, elsewhere in northern FL

Established (most of area)

Failed (Okaloosa Co.)

Unknown (Washington Co.)

Pylodictis olivaris

Flathead Catfish

Calhoun, Escambia, Liberty, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Walton, & Washington counties, elsewhere in northern FL

Established (several areas)

Failed or unknown elsewhere

LORICARIIDAE

SUCKERMOUTH ARMORED CATFISHES

 

 

Ancistrus sp.

Bristlenosed Catfish

Miami-Dade County

Established

Farlowella vittata

Twig Catfish

Hillsborough County

Unknown

Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps

Leopard Pleco

Alachua County

Unknown

Hypostomus plecostomus

Suckermouth Catfish

Broward, DeSota, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, & Polk counties

Established (most of area)

Unknown (Hillsborough Co.)

Hypostomus sp.

Suckermouth Catfish

Hillsborough, Martin, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, & Seminole counties, elsewhere

Established (throughout)

Pterygoplichthys anisitsi

Paraná Sailfin Catfish

Brevard, Marion, Okeechobee, & St. Johns counties

Established

Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus

Vermiculated Sailfin Catfish

Much of southern FL

Established

Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus

Orinoco Sailfin Catfish

Much of southern FL

Established

Pterygoplichthys pardalis

Amazon Sailfin Catfish

DeSota, Glades, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Sarasota, & St. Lucie counties

Established

Pterygoplichthys sp.

Sailfin Catfish

Much of central and southern FL

Established (much of area)

MASTACEMBELIDAE

FRESHWATER SPINY EELS

 

 

Macrognathus siamensis

Spotfin Spiny Eel

Miami-Dade & Monroe counties

Established (throughout)

MORONIDAE

TEMPERATE BASSES

 

 

Morone chrysops

White Bass

Much of peninsular FL

Established

Morone chrysops x M. saxatilis

Sunshine Bass

Much of northern and central FL

Stocked

Morone saxatilis

Striped Bass

Gadsden, Hernando, Lake, Martin, Orange, Polk, & Walton counties

Established (Gadsden, Hernando, Polk, & Walton counties)

Failed, extirpated, or collected (elsewhere)

NOTOPTERIDAE

FEATHERFIN KNIFEFISHES

 

 

Chitala ornata

Clown Knifefish

Lake, Palm Beach, & Pinellas counties

Failed (Lake & Pinellas Co.)

Established (Palm Beach Co.)

OSPHRONEMIDAE

GOURAMIES

 

 

Betta splendens

Siamese Fighting Fish

Manatee & Palm Beach counties, elsewhere

Failed (throughout)

Colisa fasciata

Banded Gourami

Not specified

Failed

Colisa labiosa

Thicklipped Gourami

Hillsborough County

Failed

Colisa lalia

Dwarf Gourami

Hillsborough & Palm Beach counties

Failed

Macropodus opercularis

Paradise Fish

Palm Beach County

Failed

Osphronemus goramy

Giant Gourami

Not specified

Collected

Trichogaster leerii

Pearl Gourami

Palm Beach County

Failed

Trichogaster trichopterus

Three-Spot Gourami

Miami-Dade & Palm Beach counties

Failed

Trichopsis vittata

Croaking Gourami

Palm Beach County

Established

OSTEOGLOSSIDAE

AROWANAS

 

 

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum

Silver Arowana

Broward, Monroe, & Osceola counties

Failed

PANGASIIDAE

SHARK CATFISHES

 

 

Pangasianodon hypophthalmus

Iridescent Shark

Hillsborough County, elsewhere

Failed

PERCIDAE

PERCHES AND DARTERS

 

 

Perca flavescens

Yellow Perch

Gadsden & Liberty counties, Apalachicola drainage

Established

Sander canadensis

Sauger

Gadsden County

Established

Sander vitreus

Walleye

Orange County

Failed

PIMELODIDAE

LONG-WHISKERED CATFISHES

 

 

Leiarius marmoratus

(no common name)

Miami-Dade County

Unknown

Phractocephalus hemioliopterus

Redtail Catfish

Bay County, elsewhere

Failed

POECILIIDAE

LIVEBEARERS

 

 

Belonesox belizanus

Pike Killifish

Much of southern FL

Established (throughout)

Gambusia affinis

Western Mosquitofish

Alachua County

Failed

Poecilia kykesis

Péten Molly

Hillsborough & Palm Beach counties

Failed

Poecilia latipunctata

Tamesí Molly

Hillsborough County

Failed

Poecilia reticulata

Guppy

Alachua, Brevard, Hillsborough, & Palm Beach counties

Unknown (Alachua Co.)

Failed (Brevard Co.)

Extirpated (Hillsborough & Palm Beach Co.)

Poecilia sphenops

Mexican Molly

Not specified

Failed

Xiphophorus hellerii

Green Swordtail

Brevard, Hillsborough, Indian River, Manatee, Palm Beach, Polk, & St. Johns counties

Established (throughout)

Xiphophorus hellerii x X. maculatus

Red Swordtail

Brevard & Hillsborough counties

Established

Xiphophorus hellerii x X. variatus

Platyfish/Swordtail

Not specified

Locally established

Xiphophorus maculatus

Southern Platyfish

Alachua, Brevard, Hillsborough, Indian River, Manatee, Palm Beach, & St. Lucie counties

Established (throughout except Indian River & Manatee Co.)

Unknown (Indian River & Manatee Co.)

Xiphophorus sp.

Platyfish

Brevard & Hillsborough counties

Unknown (Brevard Co.)

Established (Hillsborough Co.)

Xiphophorus variatus

Variable Platyfish

Alachua, Brevard,  Hillsborough, Manatee, Marian, Miami-Dade, & Palm Beach counties

Established (throughout)

Xiphophorus xiphidium

Swordtail Platyfish

Not specified

Collected

POLYODONTIDAE

PADDLEFISHES

 

 

Polyodon spathula

Paddlefish

Jackson County & Apalachicola River

Failed

POLYPTERIDAE

BICHIRS

 

 

Polypterus delhezi

Barred Bichir

Broward County

Failed

POMACANTHIDAE

ANGELFISHES

 

 

Pomacanthus annularis

Blue Ringed Angelfish

Broward County

Unknown

Pomacanthus asfur

Arabian Angel

Broward County

Unknown

Pomacanthus imperator

Emperor Angelfish

Broward & Miami-Dade counties

Unknown

Pomacanthus maculosus

Yellowbar Angelfish

Broward & Palm Beach counties

Unknown

Pomacanthus semicirculatus

Semicircle Angelfish

Broward & Palm Beach counties

Unknown

Pomacanthus xanthometopon

Bluefaced Angel

Broward County

Unknown

POMACENTRIDAE

DAMSELFISHES

 

 

Dascyllus aruanus

Whitetail Damselfish

Palm Beach County

Eradicated

Dascyllus trimaculatus

Three Spot Damselfish

Palm Beach County

Unknown

Salmonidae

Salmon and Trout

 

 

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Rainbow Trout

Okaloosa & Walton counties

Stocked (1968)

Salmo trutta

Brown Trout

Not specified

Failed

SCATOPHAGIDAE

SCATS

 

 

Scatophagus argus

Scat

Levy & Martin counties

Collected

SCORPAENIDAE

SCORPIONFISHES

 

 

Pterois volitans &

P. miles (combined here due to morphological similarity)

Red Lionfish &

Devil Firefish

Throughout much of the Atlantic coast of Florida, nearshore to at least 60 miles offshore, less commonly encountered along the Gulf coast

Established (Atlantic coast)

Likely established (Gulf coast [see Schofeild 2010 for more info.])

Serranidae

Sea Basses

 

 

Cephalopholis argus

Peacock Hind

Broward, Monroe, & Palm Beach counties

Unknown

Chromileptes altivelis

Panther Grouper

Brevard, Broward, Palm Beach, & Pinellas counties

Unknown

Epinephelus ongus

White-Streaked Grouper

Palm Beach County

Unknown

SYNBRANCHIDAE

SWAMP EELS

 

 

Monopterus albus

Asian Swamp Eel

Hillsborough, Manatee, & Miami-Dade counties

Established (throughout)

TETRAODONTIDAE

PUFFERS

 

 

Arothron diadematus

Masked Pufferfish

Palm Beach County

Failed

ZANCLIDAE

MOORISH IDOLS

 

 

Zanclus cornutus

Moorish Idol

Monroe & Palm Beach counties

Unknown

Sources: Schofield (2010), USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species online database (http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/SpeciesList.aspx?group=Fishes&state=FL&Sortby=1)

Exhibit 3 of JCS Introduced Fishes Writeup 012815

Below is a link to an interactive map showing the spread of the Red Lionfish and the Devil Firefish in the western North Atlantic from the 1980s to 2013:

http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheets/LionfishAnimation.aspx

Sources:

Adams, C.R. and N.M. Steigerwalt.  2010.  Research Needs and Logistic Impediments in Restoration, Enhancement, and Management Projects: A Survey of Land Managers. Publication ENH1161 [online resource]. Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Accessed 11/21/10 at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep423.

Didham, R.H., J.M. Tylianakis, M.A. Hutchison, R.M. Ewers, and N.J. Gemmell. 2005. Are invasive species the drivers of ecological change? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20(9):470–474.

Elton, C.S. 1958. The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants. Methuen and Co., Ltd., Strand, London.

Idelberger, C.F., C.J. Stafford, and S.E. Erickson.  2011.  Distribution and abundance of introduced fishes in Florida’s Charlotte Harbor estuary.  Gulf and Caribbean Research 23:13–22.

Sala, O.E. F.S. Chapin, J.J. Armesto, E. Berlow, J. Bloomfield, R. Dirzo, E. Huber-Sanwald, L.F. Huenneke, R.B. Jackson, A. Kinzig, R. Leemans, D.M. Lodge, H.A. Mooney, M. Oesterheld, N.L. Poff, M.T. Sykes, B.H. Walker, M. Walker, and D.H. Wall. 2000. Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100. Science 287:1770–1774.

Schofield, P.J.  2010. Update on geographic spread of invasive lionfishes (Pterois volitans [Linnaeus, 1758] and P. miles [Bennett, 1928]) in the western North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Aquatic Invasions 5, Supplement 1:S117–S122.  http://www.aquaticinvasions.net/2010/Supplement/AI_2010_5_S1_Schofield

U.S. Geological Survey.  2015. NAS – Nonindigenous Aquatic Species [online resource].  Accessed 01/23/15 at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/CollectionInfo.aspx?SpeciesID=963&State=FL.

Villazon, K.A. 2009. Methods to Restore Native Plant Communities after Invasive Species Removal: Marl Prairie Ponds and an Abandoned Phosphate Mine in Florida. MS thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Vitousek, P.M., C.M. D’Antonio, L.L. Loope, and R. Westbrooks. 1996. Biological invasions as global environmental change. American Scientist 84:468–478.

Vitousek, P.M., H.A. Mooney, J. Lubchenco, and J.M. Melillo. 1997. Human domination of Earth’s ecosystem. Science 277:494–499.

Wilcove, D.S., D. Rothstein, J. Dubow, A. Phillips, and E. Losos.  1998.  Quantifying threats to imperiled species in the United States. Bioscience 48:607–615.

 

 

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Sep
27

Out of Their Element: What Makes Gulf Sturgeon So Jumpy?

The jumping of Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) on the Suwannee River is well publicized and is widely known among Floridians. Some jumping sturgeon have even caused injuries to unfortunate boaters who get in the way of these armored aerial acrobats. Sturgeon jump most often in the early morning, and each fish averages one jump per day. Jumping is not confined to large individuals either, as fish as small as 1 foot long will jump. Most jumping activity occurs from June to early July, when some reaches of the river can experience as many as 6 to 10 jumps per minute! The most intense jumping occurs when the water level is low, before the summer convective storm season sets in. Yes, the fact that these massive timeless fish jump is not the question here. They jump. We know. What’s not well publicized is why exactly these sturgeon feel the need to jump in the first place.

Gulf sturgeon are not trying to shed ectoparasites as many believe, nor are they trying to capture prey. The jumping is also unrelated to spawning. They are not reacting to the presence of boats.

They loiter in the deep dark pools of the Suwannee River and in other Gulf Slope rivers from April through September and slowly digest the 20 percent of body fat they put on during the previous 6 months of easy living, and easy feeding, in the Gulf of Mexico. When in the Suwannee they seldom feed, so put that fishing pole away.

Resting in the sluggish deep recesses of the Suwannee, Gulf sturgeon are conserving energy. But just hovering above the river bottom requires neutral buoyancy. Similar to how a SCUBA diver adjusts his BC, these fish must add air to the swim bladder. Air slowly leaks out of the swim bladder and is absorbed in the surrounding tissues. To keep from scraping along the bottom and to swim more efficiently in the sluggish current, the swim bladder must be refilled an average of once daily. Since the swim bladder in Gulf sturgeon is connected to the digestive tract by a duct, the bladder can be recharged by gulping air. But how do fishes, being totally aquatic as they are, find any atmospheric air to gulp? Well, we have nearly reached our answer as to why they jump.

Any SCUBA diver knows that you can’t descend easily through the water column with a BC full of air, even with dive weights. By the same principle, a sturgeon can’t just rise gently to the surface, take a big gulp of air, and glide back down into the depths. Did I mention that while sturgeon are lollygagging in the river, they are also chatting up a storm? Call them gabby or chatty, Gulf sturgeon really know how to bend an ear (or otolith, in this case). These fish communicate with one another via a series of snapping sounds. Jumping high up into the air and then falling powerfully back into the water, with a loud report, and swimming directly to the bottom, serves two purposes. The main purpose is to allow the fish to gulp air and yet have enough momentum to reach the river bottom immediately afterward (despite the increased buoyancy from the added air). The secondary purpose may be to communicate. Immediately prior to jumping, these fish emit a series of snapping sounds, and following the belly-flop-style smack when entering the water, the sturgeon emit more snapping sounds. The role jumping plays in sturgeon communication, if any, is far from clear and would be very difficult to prove scientifically. However, it seems probable that these fish are communicating with one another using not just snapping sounds (which have been recorded by U.S. Geological Survey scientists and heard by SCUBA divers), but perhaps also by the splash following a jump. So, the next time you encounter a jumping sturgeon while enjoying a lazy day on the Suwannee, ask it why it jumps. Listen carefully to its answer and don’t be surprised if its response sounds something like “snap, snap-snap, snaaap, snaaap, snap”.

Source and Suggested Reading:

Sulak, K. 2013. Catching air – those magnificent jumping Suwannee sturgeons. American Currents 38(2):23–25.

 

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Aug
21

Why do sturgeon jump?

The jumping of Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) on the Suwannee River is well publicized and is widely known among Floridians.  Some jumping sturgeon have even caused injuries to unfortunate boaters who get in the way of these armored aerial acrobats.  Sturgeon jump most often in the early morning, and each fish averages one jump per day.  Jumping is not confined to large individuals either, as fish as small as one foot long will jump.  Most jumping activity occurs from June to early July, when some reaches of the river can experience as many as 6 to 10 jumps per minute!  The most intense jumping occurs when the water level is low, before the summer convective storm season sets in.  Yes, the fact that these massive timeless fish jump is not the question here.  They jump.  We know.  What’s not well publicized is why exactly these sturgeon feel the need to jump in the first place. 

Gulf sturgeon are not trying to shed ectoparasites as many believe, nor are they trying to capture prey.  The jumping is also unrelated to spawning.  They are not reacting to the presence of boats.

They loiter in the deep dark pools of the Suwannee River and other Gulf Slope rivers from April through September and slowly digest the 20 percent of body fat they put on during the previous 6 months of easy living and easy feeding in the Gulf of Mexico.  When in the Suwannee, they seldom feed, so put that fishing pole away.

Resting in the sluggish deep recesses of the Suwannee, Gulf sturgeon are conserving energy.  But just hovering above the river bottom requires neutral buoyancy.  Similar to how a SCUBA diver adjusts his BC, these fish must add air to the swim bladder.  Air slowly leaks out of the swim bladder and is absorbed in the surrounding tissues.  To keep from scraping along the bottom and to swim more efficiently in the sluggish current, the swim bladder must be refilled an average of once daily.  Since the swim bladder in Gulf sturgeon is connected to the digestive tract by a duct, the bladder can be recharged by gulping air.  But how does a fish, being totally aquatic as they are, find any atmospheric air to gulp?  Well we have nearly reached our answer to why they jump. 

Any SCUBA diver knows that you can’t descend easily through the water column with a BC full of air, even with dive weights.  By the same principle, a sturgeon can’t just rise gently to the surface, take a big gulp of air, and glide back down into the depths.  Did I mention that while sturgeon are lollygagging in the river, they are also chatting up a storm?  Call them gabby or chatty, Gulf sturgeon really know how to bend an ear (or otolith, in this case).  These fish communicate with one another via a series of snapping sounds.  Jumping high up into the air and then falling powerfully back into the water, with a loud report, and swimming directly to the bottom serves two purposes.  The main purpose is to allow the fish to gulp air and yet have enough momentum to reach the river bottom immediately afterward (despite the increased buoyancy from the added air).  The secondary purpose may be to communicate.  Immediately prior to jumping, these fish emit a series of snapping sounds, and following the belly-flop-style smack when entering the water, the sturgeon emit more snapping sounds.  The role jumping plays in sturgeon communication, if any, is far from clear, and would be very difficult to prove scientifically.  However, it seems probable that these fish are communicating with one another using not just snapping sounds (which have been recorded by U.S. Geological Survey scientists and heard by SCUBA divers), but perhaps also by the splash following a jump.  So next time you encounter a jumping sturgeon while enjoying a lazy day on the Suwannee, ask it why it jumps.  Listen carefully to its answer and don’t be surprised if its response sounds something like “snap, snap-snap, snaaap, snaaap, snap”.

Source and Suggested Reading:

Sulak, K.  2013.  Catching air – those magnificent jumping Suwannee sturgeons.  American Currents 38(2):23–25. 

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Jul
12

Amazing Sawfish of the Past: A brief review of the fossil record of these intriguing animals

Amazing Sawfish of the Past: A brief review of the fossil record of these intriguing animals

All sawfishes are highly modified and elongate rays that swim like a shark and have a long snout with laterally-placed spines. The snout (called a ‘rostrum’) is actually an extension of the skull (known as the ‘chondrocranium’) and the lateral spines are called ‘rostral teeth’ by scientists. Like the rest of the skeleton of the sawfish, the rostrum is composed of cartilage, albeit reinforced with extra calcium. The rostrum and rostral teeth are used in food gathering. The sawfish uses the rostrum to stun prey, such as fishes and invertebrates, which it then sucks into its mouth positioned under the head. There is no cutting or tearing and sawfish can only consume fish and invertebrates that fit into the mouth whole.

The modern sawfish group (family Pristidae) first showed up in the fossil record between the beginning of the Cenozoic (about 66 million years ago) and the beginning of the Eocene (about 56 million years ago). The only exception is the nominal genus Peyeria, which first appeared during the upper Cretaceous (about 100 million years ago). However, the fossil material attributed to the genus Peyeria may actually represent another type of ray—a member of the sharkfin guitarfish family (Rhinidae) such as the bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma).

Living (extant) sawfishes include the following species:

The Knifetooth complex (one species):

  • Anoxypristis cuspidata (knifetooth sawfish [western Pacific and Indian oceans])

The Smalltooth complex (three species):

  • Pristis clavata (dwarf sawfish [western Pacific Ocean])
  • Pristis pectinata (smalltooth sawfish [eastern and western Atlantic Ocean])
  • Pristis zijsron (green sawfish [western Pacific and Indian oceans])

The Largetooth complex of sawfish has recently been combined into one species:

  • Pristis pristis (largetooth sawfish [eastern and western Atlantic, eastern and western Pacific, and Indian oceans])

There were also several additional members of the modern sawfish group that are only represented as fossils:

  • Anoxypristis mucrodens (fossils of Europe, North America, West and East Africa)
  • Peyeria libyca (nominal species; fossils of northeast Africa including Egypt)
  • Propristis schweinfurthi (fossils of North and West Africa)
  • Pristis spp. (at least eight extinct species described; fossils of West and East Africa, Europe, and North America)

Prior to the modern sawfishes, a diverse group of sawfishes (family Sclerorhynchidae) lived during the Cretaceous epoch. Members of the Cretaceous sawfishes had a diverse array of rostral tooth morphologies, ranging from closely-spaced thin spines to widely-spaced massive barbed teeth on sturdy, widened bases. Although most species reached a modest size of not more than 1 meter in total length, fossil rostra measuring well over 1 meter in length have been unearthed in Cretaceous sediments of Morocco.

There are at least 20 genera of Cretaceous sawfishes, including the following:

  • Ankistrorhynchus (fossils of Europe and North America)
  • Atlanticopristis (fossils of South America)
  • Baharipristis (fossils of East Africa)
  • Biropristis (fossils of South America)
  • Borodinopristis (a nominal genus of about three species [fossils of North America])
  • Ctenopristis (fossils of West and East Africa)
  • Dalpiaza (fossils of West Africa)
  • Ganopristis (fossils of Europe)
  • Ischyrhiza (fossils of North and South America)
  • Kiestus (fossils of North America)
  • Libanopristis (fossils of Middle East)
  • Marckgrafia (fossils of West Africa)
  • Micropristis (fossils of Europe and Middle East)
  • Onchopristis (fossils of North America, Europe, West and East Africa, Asia, New Zealand)
  • Onchosaurus (fossils of North America and West Africa)
  • Plicatopristis (fossils of the Middle East)
  • Pucapristis (fossils of South America)
  • Renpetia (fossils of the Middle East)
  • Schizorhiza (fossils of North America and Middle East)
  • Sclerorhynchus (fossils of North America and Middle East)

Modern sawfishes and Cretaceous sawfishes evolved independently from the guitarfishes (Rhinobatidae). Thus, while both groups are commonly referred to as sawfish, and both share similar morphological characteristics, they are not closely related. Sawfishes should not be confused with the saw sharks (family Pristiophoridae), which are true sharks and therefore only distantly related to the sawfishes (which are rays, not sharks).

The rostral teeth of Cretaceous sawfishes are attached to the dermis of the rostrum via connective tissue. Their rostral teeth are thought to be continually replaced throughout the life of the animal in the same conveyer-belt fashion as are the oral teeth of all sharks and rays. In contrast, modern sawfishes have rostral teeth firmly embedded in sockets (called ‘alveoli’) and their teeth are not replaced if lost. Cretaceous sawfish rostral teeth are covered with an enamel-like coating along the cusp; this coating is lacking in modern sawfishes. Cretaceous sawfishes also differ from modern sawfishes in that they possess a long, whip-like caudal fin. Although the average fossil remains consist of isolated rostral teeth or oral teeth, some beautiful, fully articulated fossil skeletons have been unearthed in Lebanon quarries.

Sources:

Alroy, J. and M. McClennen. 2013. Paleobiology Database [online resource]. Accessed 06/10/13 online at http://www.paleodb.org/?a=displaySearchColls&type=view.

Faria, V.V., M.T. McDavitt, P. Charvet, T.R. Wiley, C.A. Simpfendorfer, and G.J.P. Naylor. 2013. Species delineation and global population structure of critically endangered sawfishes (Pristidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 167(1):136–164.

Seitz, J.C. 2013. Fossil Sawfish [online resource]. Accessed 06/10/13 online at http://www.fossilsawfish.com/.

Wueringer, B.E., L. Squire Jr., and S.P. Collin. 2009. The biology of extinct and extant sawfish (Batoidea: Sclerorhynchidae and Pristidae). Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 19:445–464.

Authored by Jason C. Seitz of ANAMAR

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Mar
20

How Many Species of Sawfish Are There in the World Today?

Jason sawfishSawfishes are large highly modified and elongate rays that swim like a shark and have a long snout with laterally-placed spines.  The snout (called a ‘rostrum’) is actually an extension of the skull (known as a ‘chondrocranium’) and the lateral spines are called ‘rostral teeth’ by scientists.  Like the rest of the skeleton of the sawfish, the rostrum is composed of cartilage, albeit reinforced with extra calcium.  The rostrum and rostral teeth are used in food gathering.  The sawfish uses the rostrum to stun fishes and to a lesser extent, invertebrates, which it then sucks into its mouth positioned under the head.  There is no cutting or tearing and sawfish can only consume fish and invertebrates that fit into the mouth whole.  The longest species of sawfish, the green sawfish (Pristis zijsron), is reported to reach a length of 23.9 feet according to Last and Stevens (1994).

Sawfishes can be distinguished from saw sharks (Pristiophurus spp. and Pliotrema warreni) by the lack of barbels, ventrally located gills (versus laterally located), dorso-laterally compressed body, and uniformly sized rostral teeth.  Sawfishes grow much larger than do saw sharks.  Further, sawfishes prefer warm coastal waters while saw sharks inhabit deeper cooler offshore waters.

Living sawfish species are globally distributed in tropical and sub-tropical coastal marine and estuarine waters, and sometimes inhabit rivers and associated freshwater bodies such as Lake Nicaragua.  The center of distribution is the western Pacific including northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

All modern sawfish species are considered imperiled and regarded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as ‘critically endangered’ with declining populations (www.iucnredlist.org).  Unfortunately, the IUCN is not a regulatory agency and thus no protection is afforded by this group.  Only two species currently have protection under the endangered species act of 1972, and only in waters of the United States.  The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has protected all species of sawfish from international trade of sawfish parts since 2007 (www.cites.org).  However, the confusing taxonomy of modern sawfishes has hampered conservation efforts and such efforts are further disadvantaged by the poorly known geographical population structure.

Until very recently, there were six valid living species worldwide. The Knifetooth Complex of sawfish currently consists of one species:

Anoxypristis cuspidata (knifetooth sawfish [western Pacific and Indian oceans])

 The Smalltooth Complex of sawfish consists of three species:

Pristis clavata (dwarf sawfish [western Pacific Ocean])

Pristis pectinata (smalltooth sawfish [eastern and western Atlantic Ocean])

Pristis zijsron (green sawfish [western Pacific and Indian oceans])

 The Largetooth Complex of sawfish consisted of two species:

Pristis microdon (freshwater sawfish [western Pacific and Indian oceans])

Pristis perotteti (largetooth sawfish [eastern and western Atlantic Ocean, eastern Pacific Ocean])

Some researchers also considered the species Pristis pristis to be a valid member of the Largetooth Complex, although most considered it as an invalid synonym due to problems relating to its original description and lack of voucher specimens in museums (Faria 2007).  Also, the eastern Pacific population of the largetooth sawfish was considered to be a separate species (Pristis zephyreus) by some researchers following molecular phylogenetic work by Faria (2007), although no reliable morphological differences have been found between the eastern Pacific population and largetooth sawfish from the western Atlantic.

The freshwater sawfish and the largetooth sawfish have been problematic for researchers because the two species cannot be reliably differentiated by morphology and thus, these species were differentiated solely by region.  For specimens lacking collection data, this presents a challenge as the species may not be reliably determined at all.  Molecular work has shown that these species group closely together in terms of genetic background (Naylor et al. 2012).

Because of the fact that the largetooth sawfish and the freshwater sawfish are indistinguishable by morphology and share similar genetic backgrounds, it has been very recently proposed by researchers that these two species should be combined.  In a paper published in early 2013 and authored by Faria et al. (2013), all the Largetooth Complex species have been combined into a composite species under the resurrected name of Pristis pristis.  The resurrection of the formerly invalid name of Pristis pristis was based on Rule 23.1 (principle of priority) of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, which states that ‘the valid name of a taxon is the oldest available name applied to it’ (International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature 1999).  Since the species name Pristis pristis was published in 1758 (as Squalus pristis by Carl Linnaeus), it precedes the naming of all other Largetooth Complex species.  For this reason and because this name was used as a valid species after 1899, Pristis pristis is proposed by Faria et al. (2013) for use in place of Pristis microdon, Pristis perotteti, and the species of questionable validity, Pristis zephyreus.

Based on Faria et al. (2013), there are now a total of five valid sawfish species:

The Knifetooth complex (one species):

Anoxypristis cuspidata (knifetooth sawfish [western Pacific and Indian oceans])

The Smalltooth complex (three species):

Pristis clavata (dwarf sawfish [western Pacific Ocean])

Pristis pectinata (smalltooth sawfish [eastern and western Atlantic Ocean])

Pristis zijsron (green sawfish [western Pacific and Indian oceans])

The Largetooth complex of sawfish now consists of only one species:

Pristis pristis (largetooth sawfish [eastern and western Atlantic, eastern and western Pacific, and Indian oceans])

It is possible that in the future, changes may occur within the taxonomy of the knifetooth sawfish.  Gene flow between Indian Ocean and western Pacific specimens was found to be very low in a study by Faria et al. (2013).  Specimens from the Indian Ocean were found to have a higher average number of rostral teeth per side (average of 25.6) versus western Pacific specimens (average of 21.2) (faria et al. 2013).  Results of the Faria et al. (2013) study suggest that the knifetooth sawfish may actually represent multiple species.  In fact, a DNA-sequencing based analysis by Naylor et al. (2012) showed that knifetooth sawfish had considerable genetic differences from all other living members of the sawfish family.  This suggests that in the future the knifetooth sawfish may even be placed into a separate family distinct from the other sawfishes.

It is clear that there is still a lot to learn about sawfishes.  Although it is uncertain what changes will occur in sawfish taxonomy, or what new information will come to light from future scientific research, it remains clear that this interesting group of animals will continue to captivate scientists and layman alike for many years to come.

Sources Cited: Faria, V.V.  2007.  Taxonomic Review, Phylogeny, and Geographical Population Structure of the Sawfishes (Chondrichthyes, Pristiformes).  PhD dissertation, Iowa State University, Ames, IA.

Faria, V.V., M.T. McDavitt, P. Charvet, T.R. Wiley, C.A. Simpfendorfer, and G.J.P. Naylor.  2013. Species delineation and global population structure of critically endangered sawfishes (Pristidae).  Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 167(1):136–164.

International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.  1999.  International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. The International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature, The Natural History Museum, London, UK.

Last, P.R. and J.D. Stevens.  1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia.  CSIRO Division of Fisheries, Victoria, Australia.

Naylor, G.J.P., J.N. Caira, K. Jensen, K.A.M., Rosana, W.T. White, and P.R. Last.  2012. A DNA sequence-based approach to the identification of shark and ray species and its implications for global elasmobranch diversity and parasitology. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 2012(367):1–262.

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Dec
20

How do you differentiate the two species of ladyfish (Elopiformes: Elops spp.) from the western central Atlantic?

Ladyfish (rarely called ‘tenpounders’) are economically valuable and are landed throughout the southeastern United States in both commercial and recreational fisheries (Levesque 2011).  Ladyfish are common in coastal areas throughout most of the western central Atlantic Ocean, including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico (Smith and Crabtree 2002).  The genus Elops in the western central Atlantic was traditionally treated as a single species, E. saurus.  This has changed recently with the description of a new species, E. smithi, by McBride and co-workers (2010).  Here’s how to tell the two species apart:

Counts of myomeres (in leptocephala larvae) or vertebrae (in post-larval to adult specimens) are the only known distinguishing morphological characters (McBride and Horodysky 2004, McBride et al. 2010).  E. saurus has 79–87 (usually 81–85) myomeres or vertebrae versus 73–80 (usually 75–78) in E. smithi.  (Number of myomeres = number of vertebrae).The number of myomeres or vertebrae appears to be a good diagnostic character, despite the overlap in range, as this overlap occurred in only 2.9% of the 3,255 specimens examined by McBride et al. (2010).  In counts of leptocephalus pre-anal myomeres or vertebrae, there is no overlap (see following table).

Myomeres should be counted using a compound microscope at 40x magnification, beginning with the first myomere behind the head and ending with the group of three myomeres near the caudal peduncle (McBride and Horodysky 2004).  Vertebrae (in post-larval to adult specimens) can be counted using radiographs and a microscope or by filleting, steaming, scraping, and directly counting the vertebrae.  Vertebral counts include all centra between the proatlas to the urostyle (McBride and Horodysky 2004). 

There are seasonal and geographic recruitment differences between the two species that can help you determine the species by date of capture: E. saurus larvae are most often found during winter through spring versus summer through fall in E. smithi (McBride and Horodysky 2004).  Generally speaking, Elops along the northern U.S. Atlantic seaboard are most often E. saurus while Elops from the Caribbean basin are most often E. smithi (McBride and Horodysky 2004).

The following table presents morphological, seasonal, and geographic comparisons between E. saurus and E. smithi that can help in species-level determinations.  Although it is admittedly difficult to discern the two species from one another, particularly when field-identification is needed, this write-up and associated table should make it more straightforward.

ladyfishtable

Sources Cited:

Levesque, J.C.  2011.  Is today’s fisheries research driven by the economic value of a species?  A case study using an updated review of ladyfish (Elops saurus) biology and ecology.  Reviews in Fisheries Science 19(2):137–149.

McBride, R.S. and A.Z. Horodysky.  2004.  Mechanisms maintaining sympatric distributions of two ladyfish (Elopidae: Elops) morphs in the Gulf of Mexico and the western North Atlantic Ocean.  Limnology and Oceanography  49(4):1173–1181.

McBride, R.S., C.R. Rocha, R. Ruiz-Carus, and B.W. Bowen.  2010.  A new species of ladyfish, of the genus Elops (Elopiformes: Elopidae), from the western Atlantic Ocean.  Zootaxa 2346:29–41.

Smith, D.G. and R. Crabtree.  2002.  Tenpounders (ladyfishes).  Pp. 679–680.  In:  Carpenter, K.E. (ed.), FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes:  The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Atlantic.  Vol. 2:  Bony Fishes Part 1 (Acipenseridae to Grammatidae).  FAO, Rome, Italy.

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Dec
13

Tips in identifying the searobins (Scorpaeniformes: Triglidae) along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida

Searobins are small to medium-sized benthic fishes (to 45 cm total length) that are common along Florida’s coastlines.  Although they are not targeted in commercial or recreational fisheries, searobins are captured in bottom trawls intended for shrimp or captured during epifaunal research surveys.  Searobins are important members of the benthic community and can amount to considerable biomass in some areas of Florida.  There are a total of 15 species within the family Triglidae in Florida waters.  First, one needs to determine which of the two genera his or her specimen belongs:

Bellator versus Prionotus

The genus Bellator can be distinguished from Prionotus by the absence of scales on the opercular membrane above the opercular spine.  There are usually 11 dorsal spines (rarely 10 or 12).  The first or second dorsal spines of males of Bellator species often end in long filaments (except in B. brachychir) (Richards and Miller 2002).  Also, species of the genus Bellator are relatively small (less than 17 cm standard length) (Richards and Miller 2002).  Finally, species of the genus Bellator are not normally found in inshore waters below about 20 m depth such as shallow bays, inlets, or estuaries.

In contrast to Bellator, the genus Prionotus never has a long, filamentous second dorsal spine.  Also, the dorsal spines usually number 10 (rarely 9 or 11) in Prionotus, and the opercular membrane is partially scaled above the opercular spine (Richards and Miller 2002).  Species of the genus Prionotus are often found in inshore waters, including bays and inlets.

See below for determining species within each genus.

Bellator Species

If you determined that your specimen falls within the genus Bellator, use the following table to help narrow down the possible species by geographic range or depth in Florida waters.

 searobinstable1

Bellator Morphological Characters by Species

The following characters are based on Richards and Miller (2002).

Bellator brachychir

  • No filamentous dorsal spine present
  • First free pectoral fin ray considerably longer than length of pectoral fins
  • Usually less than 11 cm standard length (maximum size is 16 cm)

Bellator egretta

  • Males with elongate filament extending from the first dorsal spine
  • Head very spiny, including sharp spine in front of eye, and long opercular and preopercular spines
  • First free pectoral fin rays shorter than length of pectoral fins
  • Usually less than 10 cm standard length (maximum size is 15 cm)
  • Alternating light and dark pigment appearing as brown patches or bands on upper one or two pectoral fin rays

Bellator militaris

  • Males with elongate filaments extending from the first and second dorsal spines
  • Dorsal-most pectoral fin rays marked with black and white bands
  • No dark ventral margin on pectoral fin
  • Colors in life are rosy with yellow lines along mid-body extending to caudal fin
  • Usually less than 11 cm standard length (maximum size is 16 cm)

Prionotus Species

If you determined that your specimen falls within the genus Prionotus, use the following table to help narrow down the possible species by geographic range or depth in Florida waters.

searobinstable2

Prionotus Morphological Characters by Species

The following characters are based primarily on Richards and Miller (2002), McEachran and Fechhelm (2005).

Prionotus alatus

  • Lower pectoral fin rays very long, reaching past the posterior margin of anal fin
  • Pectoral fins with black bands
  • Small nasal spines present (can be detected by running finger along snout region towards snout tip)
  • Maximum size is 20 cm standard length
  • Reported to hybridize with P. paralatus between Gulfport and Panama City

Prionotus carolinus

  • Branchiostegal rays dark (dusky or black)
  • Pectoral fins attractively patterned throughout with spots in fresh specimens (see following figure)
  • Dorsal fin with a single dark non-ocellated spot between 4th and 5th spines
  • Can be distinguished from P. scitulus by the dark dorsal spine mentioned above
  • Can be distinguished from P. martis by the dark dorsal spine and by range
  • Caudal peduncle with white blotch on dorsal side
  • Maximum size is 38 cm standard length

Searobins1

Prionotus evolans

  • Nasal spines are absent
  • Pectoral fins dark (patterned with very narrow, closely spaced, dark lines) (see following figure)
  • Pectoral fins long, reaching posterior portion of anal fin
  • Two distinct thin dark stripes along sides to caudal peduncle, contrasting with light background color
  • Maximum size is 45 cm standard length (1.55 kg all-tackle record)

 searobins 2

Prionotus longispinosus

  • Branchiostegal rays very light-colored (whitish)
  • Pectoral fins with small light-colored spots
  • Caudal peduncle without a light-colored blotch on dorsal side
  • Maximum size is 35 cm standard length

Prionotus martis

  • Throat (gular area) is completely scaled
  • Branchiostegal rays are dark (dusky or black)
  • Gill rakers on lower limb of first arch usually 9 (range = 8–11)
  • Dorsal fin with two distinct dark spots between 1st and 2nd, and 4th and 5th spines (see following figure)
  • Body heavily spotted
  • Small sized (maximum size is 18 cm standard length)

Prionotus ophryas

  • Nasal cirri are present
  • Preopercular spine long, reaching beyond posterior edge of operculum
  • Pectoral fins very long, reaching well beyond posterior edge of anal fin
  • Pectoral fins rounded
  • Body color is variable, but not silvery
  • Usually in 18–64 m depth
  • Small sized (maximum size is 20 cm standard length)

Prionotus paralatus

  • Nasal spines are absent
  • Preopercular spine is long, reaching just beyond operculum
  • Pectoral fins with dark spots and some scattered pinkish coloration throughout
  • Reported to hybridize with P. alatus between Gulfport and Panama City
  • Most abundant in 60–120 m depths
  • Small sized (maximum size is 18 cm standard length)

Prionotus roseus

  • Pectoral fins long, reaching or approaching the posterior edge of anal fin
  • Dorsal free ray of pectoral fins short, not reaching posterior edge of pelvic fins
  • Pectoral fins with bright blue or dark ocellated spots throughout (sometimes not ocellated)
  • Pectoral fins with dark ventral edge (edge not blue)
  • Small sized (maximum size is 20 cm standard length)

Prionotus rubio

  • Nasal spines are absent
  • Pectoral fins long, lowermost rays reaching beyond the posterior edge of anal fin
  • Pectoral fins uniformly very dark (blackish) with distinct blue margin on ventral edge (see following figure)
  • Small sized (maximum size is 23 cm standard length)

searobins3

Prionotus scitulus

  • Throat (gular area) is completely without scales
  • Branchiostegal rays light-colored (whitish), never dusky or black
  • Gill rakers on lower limb of first arch usually 11 (range = 10–13)
  • Dorsal fin with two distinct dark spots between 1st and 2nd, and 4th and 5th spines (see following figure)
  • Body spotted throughout
  • Maximum size is 25 cm standard length
  • Often found in shallow bays

 searobins4

Prionotus stearnsi

  • Mouth with small bony knob on ventral side at symphysis
  • Throat (gular area) completely scaled
  • Pectoral fins relatively short (not reaching beyond origin of anal fin)
  • Pectoral fins very dark (blackish)
  • Trunk light colored (silvery)
  • Small sized (maximum size is 18 cm standard length)

Prionotus tribulus

  • Head is large and broad
  • Total gill rakers on first arch usually 8–16
  • Pectoral fin with broad, dark vertical bands (may be narrow in Gulf of Mexico specimens)
  • Maximum size is 35 cm standard length

Sources Cited:

Hastings, R.W.  1979.  The origin and seasonality of the fish fauna on a new jetty in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.  Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences 24(1):1–124.

McEachran, J.D. and J.D. Fechhelm.  2005.  Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico, Volume 2: Scorpaeniformes to Tetraodontiformes.  University of Texas Press, Austin, TX.

Richards, W.J. and G.C. Miller.  2002.  Searobins.  Pp. 1266–1277.  In:  Carpenter, K.E. (ed.), FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes:  The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Atlantic.  Vol. 2:  Bony Fishes Part 1 (Acipenseridae to Grammatidae).  FAO, Rome, Italy.

Robins, C.R. and G.C. Ray.  1986.  A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes of North America.  Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY.

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Dec
12

What kinds of animal remains contribute to the sediment of deep continental slope waters off southeastern Florida?

What types of invertebrates can be identified from the remains contributing to the sediment in continental slope waters?  An ANAMAR biologist set out to learn just what groups of invertebrates could be identified from sediment collected in the deep waters off Port Everglades Harbor, Florida.  The sample was collected using a custom-made bucket sampler that was towed a short distance across the sediment surface in 664 feet of water off Port Everglades Harbor (Fort Lauderdale), Florida. 

About 2 gallons of the sediment was sieved through a 2-mm screen.  An additional 15 ounces of the sediment was wet-sieved with a 0.8-mm fine-mesh screen to uncover the remains of smaller invertebrates.  The sample matrix was mostly greenish-gray silty fine sand, most of which was washed away during the sieving process.  The remaining shells and other hard objects were left to dry over a few week’s time.  The remains were then identified and photographed. 

southeasternflphoto1

So what was found?

The sample contained:

  • Foraminiferidas (commonly called foraminifera or forams)
  • Mollusks
    • Bivalves
    • Sea butterflies of the order Thecosomata (previously of Pteropoda)
    • Other gastropods
  • Crustacean (crab and shrimp) remains
  • Echinoid (sea urchin) spines and tests

southeastflphoto2

Are any of these remains fossilized? 

All of the shells and other remains appeared to be of Holocene age (modern).  Thus, none of the remains represent fossils.  Based on the age of the animal remains, it appears that the sediment surface is mostly recently deposited material.  However, the silt component of the sediment sample may have been older than the shell component of the sample.

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Dec
01

What animals can be found in the sediment at Canaveral Harbor, and what can they tell us about the age of the sediment?

canaveral sed photo 1

Although harbor sediment is often subjected to physical, chemical, toxicological, and bioaccumulation analyses, the biological properties often go unnoticed and unappreciated during such testing.  What can the biological properties—the critters inhabiting the sediment—tell us about the age and history of the sediment?  An ANAMAR biologist set out to learn just that, by sieving extra material from a recent sediment sampling event at Canaveral Harbor, Florida.

About 12 gallons of extra sediment sampled from Canaveral Harbor, Florida, was wet sieved with a 2-mm screen to uncover modern and fossil animal remains.  The sample matrix was mostly gray-green colored clay which was washed away during the sieving process.  The remaining shell hash component left in the sieve showed that it contained at least the remains of mollusks.  The shells and other hard objects were left to dry over a few week’s time.  The remains were then identified and photographed.

 

So what was found?

The sample contained:

  • Crustacean (crab and shrimp) claws including the purse crab genus Persephona
  • Barnacle shells
  • Echinoid (sea urchin) spines and other remains
  • Mollusk shells
    • Ark shells of the order Arcoida
    • Tusk shells including the genus Dentalium
    • Wentletraps including Epitonium cf. rupicola
    • The limpet Diodora cf. floridana
    • The land snail Polygyra septemvolva (Florida flatcoil)
  • Fish remains
    • A tooth from Carcharhinus isodon (finetooth shark)
    • Vertebrae from teleost (bony) fishes
    • A pectoral spine from the sea catfish family Ariidae

canaveral sed photo2

Are any of these remains fossilized? 

It is not always easy to differentiate a fossil from the remains of modern animals, especially when considering the remains of mollusks having calcium carbonate shells.  However, we can say with certainty that the limpet shell is a fossil because the species Diodora floridana lived only during the Pleistocene (it has been extinct for thousands of years [Peterson and Peterson 2008]).  The Florida flatcoil shells may also represent fossils as they appeared to contain consolidated mineralized material filling the internal voids, and were a much darker than modern shells of this species.  The finetooth shark tooth also represents a fossil although this species still occurs around Florida today.  Most shark teeth found in sediment or on the ground are fossils because, although sharks are abundant in today’s oceans and they continually lose and replace teeth throughout their lives, it takes a build-up of teeth over thousands or millions of years for them to be numerous enough to be easily found. 

Most of the remaining shells are Holocene in age (modern).  Overall, the shells within the sediment range in age from Holocene (recent) to the Pleistocene (12,000 to 2.6 million years ago), based on the taxonomy of the animal remains.  The presence of the land snail Polygyra septemvolva among the remains of the marine animals suggests that the sediment had been mixed with other deposits originating from terrestrial sources.

canaveral sed photo3

Source Cited:

Peterson, C. and B. Peterson.  2008.  Southern Florida’s Fossil Seashells.  Blue Note Publications, Inc., Cocoa Beach, FL.

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