Invasive fish, Deep Sea mystery and elusive Stingrays

#FieldBahamas made it to Cape Eleuthera! But so too did a major storm system… students were beginning to think they had arrived in the Arctic not the Caribbean!

Despite the weather blowing plan A, B, and probably C out the water we managed to start the field course with 3 days of species exploration, dissections and island adventures.



The Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) is a venomous predatory reef fish, endemic to the Indo-Pacific, which has invaded the western Atlantic, quickly establishing growing populations in doing so threatening a range of marine ecosystems. Aquarium trade is widely accepted as the primary vector of invasion, with larval distribution, life history characteristics and population expansion attributed to major ocean currents, key to its success. In 2004, the first lionfish was documented in Bahamian waters, and by 2006 lionfish populations had increased drastically.DSCF0591

More worryingly, lionfish have no known natural predators in their invaded range, which is likely aiding the extreme growth of their populations. We had the chance to aid Lionfish related research projects by helping control species management and population abundance. Using individuals removed from nearby reefs as part of the “You slay, we pay” program implemented in the Bahamas, we performed dissections noting various characteristics, adaptations and habits furthering knowledge on how the species may be controlled. From; stomach content analysis to internal and external morphometric measurements.

To get a more in-depth look at these dissections, head over to our facebook page @bahafieldcourse or follow this link to watch team #Starfish’s LIVE dissection!



Deep Sea

A growing part of the research performed at the Cape Eleuthera Institute is that of the ‘Deep Sea’. With Mackey Violich completing an Assessment of the biodiversity and abundance of the Deep Sea fauna in Exuma Sound. Earth is aptly named the “Blue Planet” due to the high proportion of the surface covered in water (roughly 70%), however most research is carried out on land due to the ease of accessibility and likelihood of success. Marine research is growing as we begin to know more about what is within our ocean ecosystems.

The ‘Deep Sea’ is deemed anything deeper than 200 metres, which actually makes up a staggering 98% of our oceans. However only 5% of research and current knowledge can be attributed to the Deep Sea. With the average depth of our oceans at 3500 metres, the deep sea becomes the largest ecosystem known (or not so well known) to man. Unfortunately the stormy conditions meant we could not head out on the water however following a quick lecture of her research aims we aided Mackey in some internal and external analysis of some deep sea species she had caught whilst trapping.


Another method Mackey uses in her research is through a non-invasive camera, also known as the ‘Medusa’. One of only two in the world, one of which is lost at the bottom of the Ocean! Mackey uses this camera to record species presence, abundance and community interactions at various depths. Witnessing species such as Cuban Dogfish (Squalus cubensis), Blunt nosed six-gill Shark (Hexanchus griseus), Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas), Giant Isopod (Bathynomus giganteus) and the first ever Meads Catshark (Scyliorhinus meadi). Getting to witness firsthand, novel science techniques and analyse species vary rarely seen was incredible. The Deep Sea is fast becoming the future of Marine Science and it was a priviledge to learn of CEI’s ingenuity in leading the race.

Listen to Mackey’s Deep Sea lecture here LIVE!



Dr Owen O’Shea, director of the Shark and Ray conservation Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute led our students out into the field in the hope of finding some Stingray species for analysis.
Rays are found within the Elasmobranch group, thus highly related to Sharks. Stingrays are specifically within the Mylobatiformes, the Electric Rays, which of the 633 species on earth, just 6 are found in the Bahamas. Owen’s Research is focusing on three species of sympatric Ray found in the Bahamas; the Yellow Stingray (Urobatis jamaicensis), the Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana) and the Caribbean Whiptail (Himantura americanus) which until recently people believed absent from the Bahamas. The students were lucky enough to aid Owen in his work to attempt to demonstrate that Creek systems, Mangroves and Seagrass are crucial habitats for the development and growth of the species. Ecosystems, largely under threat from coastal development and habitat destruction. It is predicted that around 1/3 of all coastal Ray species are under threat, lacking legislation but crucially lacking public support and awareness in their conservation.

Students were taken to numerous locations along the cape to search for rays, which upon identification was encouraged in to a large net for identification, measurement and analysis. Unfortunately only team #Coral had any success due to the unkind conditions. However no student left the Bahamas having not seen at least one species of Stingray, so nobody left disappointed!


If you’d like to learn more about Owen and Mackey’s research, check out the CEI website here:


Or follow them on twitter and instagram;

Mackey Violich   – @mackeyviolich

Dr Owen O’Shea – @Shark_OOS

– @bahamas_stingray_research


lbj203    January 21st, 2017    Bahamas, Bahamas archive    , , , , ,

2 thoughts on “Invasive fish, Deep Sea mystery and elusive Stingrays”

  1. said on August 28, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    Most of what we know about fish migrations comes from dropping tons of nets and picking through what comes up, or using solar pings to create a snapshot of what s going on below.

  2. elespanol said on September 1, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Great sharp teeth, hinged jaws, disproportionately large mouths, and expandable bodies are a few of the characteristics that deep-sea fishes have for this purpose.

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