WATCH: Lionfish stalked and devoured by a grouper
Saturday, February 28, 2015, 9:40 AM - With the venom-spined lionfish, the smart approach is usually "you can look, but you'd better not touch."
That's allowed the beautiful, but invasive, species to thrive in waters as far north as New England. But it looks like the grouper in the video above didn't get the memo when it decided to attack and kill one in the waters off Little Cayman in the Caribbean.
"This video is believed to be the first photo documentation of a grouper making an open water kill of an invasive lionfish without encouragement of any kind by a diver," Lionfish University, an NGO studying the fish, said when it posted the video to YouTube.
The NGO says there's some controversy over whether the grouper stalked the lionfish, or chased it into open waters before making the kill.
Since posting the video, Lionfish University has learned of at least one other case of a predator chasing the invaders. Have a look at the moray eel in action below:
The video ends before the moment of truth, so there's no way of knowing whether morays also eat lionfish now.
But activists are happy for the help. The lionfish is an invasive species in the Caribbean and North Atlantic, first spotted in 1985. Many of the fish in the area today are ancestors of six red lionfish that escaped into the wild when their aquarium was broken during Hurricane Andrew, and Safespear says some may have arrived in ship ballast.
Since then, the prolific fish's numbers have exploded, and they've been known to devour as much as 90 per cent of the species it preys on in some areas -- all while facing little challenge from local predators.
"Lionfish" by Original uploader was Albert Kok at nl.wikipedia (Original text : Albert Kok) - Originally from nl.wikipedia; description page is/was here. (Original text : Red Sea). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
That's due, of course, to those poison spines. But other NGOs told Quartz the grouper may have been poisoned shortly after the video as well, and there may have been more human encouragement in this case than appears. Recent studies also suggest larger amounts of would-be predators like groupers may not have much of an impact.
The upside of the infestation is the fish are reportedly quite delicious when properly prepared, and some activists are encouraging greater public consumption of them to make a dent in their ballooning numbers.