Lionfish: Invaders in Our Waters

Meredith Bayer & Julia Stevens
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Open Minds Teen Science Cafe, Raleigh, North Carolina


Lionfish are a topic of concern for the marine ecosystems in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. Participants learned what makes these beautiful fish so problematic. Meredith Bayer, Coordinator of Fish and Invertebrates, discussed the background of the lionfish invasion and touched on the basics of keeping this fish in aquariums. Dr. Julia Stevens discussed her work on the bacteria that live on lionfish skin and how they may have helped them become such successful invaders.

Hands on Activity

Lionfish hand tag. Participants symbolize a reef community. On this reef are the native top predators, grouper. There are also the unrecognized predators.

In round one there are 3 grouper and one secret lionfish and they all love to eat reef fishes. To symbolize reef interactions, all participants will walk around shaking hands with one another. Watch out! If you aren’t paying attention, a predator might eat you!

The grouper eats his prey by tapping them on the shoulder. You are not allowed to RUN from the grouper. Avoid them by keeping your eyes open and steering clear!

The lionfish is a stealth hunter, and it eats you when you feel your palm being scratched during a handshake. Once you have been eaten, place both hands behind your back. And, remember who ate you!

At the end of 2 minutes we will total the number eaten by each predator. Whichever predator ate the most fish gets to recruit another person to join their pack, keeping their selection secret. Eaten fish must sit out the remaining rounds.

Game lasts until all the lionfish have taken over.

We have embedded a video of the café, where Meredith Bayer and Dr. Julia Stevens presents their findings.

Hands on Activity