lionfish, common name for a genus (Pterois) of the family Scorpaenidae (see rockfish), comprising venomous subtropical marine fish native to the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. Native to the Indian and South Pacific oceans, the red lionfish (P. volitans) has a striking appearance and coloration, with red, cream, and brown or black bands on the body, fanlike pectoral fins, and dorsal, anal, and tail fins with dark spots on a clear background. It has venomous spines on the dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins. It grows quickly and can reach 15 in. (38 cm) and weigh up to 2.6 lb (1.2 kg) at maturity. Primarily reef dwellers, they are most active at night, hiding during the day. Popular with saltwater aquarium hobbyists, the red lionfish is now found in North American waters from North Carolina to Caribbean Sea. The devil firefish or common lionfish (P. miles), which is native to the Indian Ocean and similar to the red lionfish in appearance, also is an invasive species in the same waters. Lionfish, which are also invasive in the Mediterranean, appear to be unappetizing to native fish, and consume commercially important species as well as marine life that feed those species. Although they have a severely painful sting, they are safe to eat and are being promoted as a food fish.
Lionfish are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Scorpaeniformes, family Scorpaenidae.
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