Invasive Species Work in the Mediterranean

Invasive Species defines any kind of animal/plant that moved into a new environment and is creating damage to mankind - Financial, physical or other.
In collaboration with other Marine Biologists we came up with a list of focus species to keep an eye on in order to evaluate the impact of the new intruders, including invasive species as well as local inhabitants, that will be first ones to suffer under the new peer pressure from freshly brought in species.
The Mediterranean Sea is particularly vulnerable to invaders from the south through Suez and as new immigrants migrate north towards the Adriatic Sea the original locals hit dead ends towards the shore of Italy - a possible disaster area in the near future where several species could go extinct simply because they are running out of space to evade.

Key Species Observations

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The Lionfish Pterois miles is one of several "Invasive species" in the area. He originally migrated into the Mediterranean through the Suez channel from the Red Sea. With poisonous dorsal spines and his distinct look it becomes very obvious it is not a good idea to touch them even though they tend to not swim away too fast if curious divers come close. So watch out! They are feeding on smaller fish which makes them a danger to an eco system in which they roam without any certain enemies.
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The Pufferfish Torquigener flavimaculosus is another intruder from the Red Sea that slowly wins ground throughout the Mediterranean. They too are short on natural enemies in this eco system making it easy for them to expand their populations without problems. Right now we keep a close eye on them to ensure their population does at the least not increase.
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The Dusky Grouper Epinephelus marginatus is one of the top predators of the area around Crete and a real local. They are the ones with the ability of keeping new invasive species from expanding too fast. However they also are one of the most wanted fish by fishermen and therefore getting less and smaller on a annual basis. We want to monitor those to ensure that they don't get even less!
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The Rabbitfish Siganus sp. comes in different species, but they are rather tricky to tell apart. Especially the looks from day to night time can change massively. They too are immigrants from the Red Sea and slowly taking over the Mediterranean. Usually they like to be in shallow water and are rarely seen in deeper areas. Generally move around in groups of up to 100+ animals. Rabbitfish are strong, stone crunching algae eaters destroying macroalgae stands which in turn are home to juvenile fish.
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The blue spotted Cornetfish Fistularia commersonii is yet another newcomer to the Mediterranean but not an unpopular one. They are one of the original enemies of juvenile fish (including Lionfish) and are used to feeding on them from the Red Sea. So the hope is they might actually help to keep the stocks of Lionfish small rather than decimate the local fish populations.
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Sea urchins, both the purple and the black one alike are they key players when it comes to the overgrowth of algae over any given substrate (generally rocks and stoney surfaces). If there is a lot of Sea urchins chances are there is few to no algae and vice versa. The black Sea Urchin tends to be the more painful one with sometimes long stingers and is generally found on big rock surfaces or concrete structures. The purple Sea Urchin tends to mask itself with shells, algae or even seagrass and hide away when possible. Also the stings are not actually that pointy. Both of them are feeding on algae and basically controlling the amount of algae in the given eco system, which makes them a key player worth of observation.
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Madracis and Cladocora are two of the small sized coral species that do occur in this part of the Mediterranean. They are actual residents of the Med and like most coral very slow growing. So they main reason to keep a close eye on them is to be able to observe the population of something that takes a long time to establish and/or change.
Mandrakis (upper picture) is generally found in dark shadow walls and overhangs, little caves etc. Cladocora can also be found as a miniature reef (up to about 15cm in diameter) inside the seagrass meadow or other shaded areas.
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