The ecological implications of biotic interactions, such as predator-prey relationships, are often context-dependent. Comparative functional responses analysis can be used under different abiotic contexts to improve understanding and prediction of the ecological impact of invasive species. Pterois volitans (Lionfish) [Linnaeus 1758] is an established invasive species in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, with a more recent invasion into the Mediterranean. Lionfish are generalist predators that impact a wide range of commercial and non-commercial species. Functional response analysis was employed to quantify interaction strength between lionfish and a generic prey species, the shrimp (Paleomonetes varians) [Leach 1814], under the contexts of differing temperature, habitat complexity and light wavelength. Lionfish have prey population destabilising Type II functional responses under all contexts examined. Significantly more prey were consumed at 26 °C than at 22 °C. Habitat complexity did not significantly alter the functional response parameters. Significantly more prey were consumed under white light and blue light than under red light. Attack rate was significantly higher under white light than under blue or red light. Light wavelength did not significantly change handling times. The impacts on prey populations through feeding rates may increase with concomitant temperature increase. As attack rates are very high at low habitat complexity this may elucidate the cause of high impact upon degraded reef ecosystems with low-density prey populations, although there was little protection conferred through habitat complexity. Only red light (i.e. dark) afforded any reduction in predation pressure. Management initiatives should account for these environmental factors when planning mitigation and prevention strategies.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank G. Riddell, E. Gorman and B. McNamara for their technical support and assistance with animal maintenance, and J. Sigwart for her help in stimulating discussion. We thank anonymous peer reviewers for their helpful suggestions. This research was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Northern Ireland).