Why is the lionfish also known as a ‘turkeyfish’? Lionfish have beautifully colored fins that, when viewed from the right angle, can resemble a turkey’s plumage. Common names for one an animal, like “lionfish” and “turkeyfish”, can be different from place to place. That’s why scientists use standardized, scientific names – so there’s never any confusion about which animal they’re talking about. The scientific name for a common member of this group, the red lionfish (or turkeyfish!) is Pterois volitans. To learn more about the different common names for lionfish click here.
Besides making them look like a turkey, the lionfish’s elaborate fins help it survive in its habitat. The dorsal fins contain venom that causes extreme pain and nausea in humans. The fluttery pectoral fins are used to herd small fish into a tight location, making them easy to catch. Their bright colors warn others to stay away.
Lionfish are native to the warm waters near India and Australia, but have now been established along the southeast coast of the United States. Because they did not evolve here, they are considered an invasive species. They eat the same kind of food as native snappers and groupers, and this competition can cause native fish populations to decline. Snapper and grouper are both important fisheries in the region. The presence of lionfish can also disrupt the balance of coral reef communities, making it harder to protect and restore these delicate habitats. (http://www.ccfhr.noaa.gov/stressors/lionfish.aspx).