Lionfish are invading the Mediterranean

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Lionfish have already unleashed their fury on ecosystems across the waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean here in the Western Hemisphere. Now, these beautiful, highly venomous predators are set to tear the Mediterranean apart.

In a paper published today in Marine Biodiversity Records researchers found that lionfish had colonized the shoreline of one Mediterranean island in just a single year.

RELATED: Incredible images of lionfish

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Cubans look at a lionfish in a fish tank in Havana, on June 2, 2016. Cuba includes in its menu lionfish to combat this invasive and predatory species that threatens the balance of the Caribbean Sea. / AFP / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 19: A lionfish swims in a tank at Artisanal Foods on February 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Cubans look at a lionfish in a fish tank in Havana, on June 2, 2016. Cuba includes in its menu lionfish to combat this invasive and predatory species that threatens the balance of the Caribbean Sea. / AFP / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 19: A lionfish swims in a tank at Artisanal Foods on February 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
A dead lionfish floats in the water, as its greenish blood is seen in the background, after it was speared by Mexican dive master Martin Vera off the reefs of Cozumel February 11, 2011. Native to Indo-Pacific waters, lionfish have invaded the Caribbean because of the aquarium trade and are gobbling up native species but have no predators in the region, so their population is exploding. Picture taken February 11, 2011. To go with Reuters Life! LIONFISH-CARRIBBEAN/INVASION REUTERS/Christa Cameron. (MEXICO - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT)
A lionfish swims in the "Chichiriviche de la Costa" beach in the state of Vargas outside Caracas July 25, 2010. Six lionfish, which are native to the Indian Ocean, were accidentally released into the Caribbean in 1992, when an aquarium in southern Florida was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. Lionfish, which are believed to threaten native marine wildlife in Venezuela and the livelihoods of coastal towns dependent on fishing and tourism, have since been detected in at least 30 locations across the country since July 2010, triggering alarm among experts. Picture taken July 25, 2010. REUTERS/Rommel Cubas/Handout (VENEZUELA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Oscar Lasso-Alcala, a researcher at the La Salle Foundation of Natural Sciences, holds a stuffed lion fish in Caracas September 7, 2010. Six lionfish, which are native to the Indian Ocean, were accidentally released into the Caribbean in 1992, when an aquarium in southern Florida was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. Lionfish, which are believed to threaten native marine wildlife in Venezuela and the livelihoods of coastal towns dependent on fishing and tourism, have since been detected in at least 30 locations across the country since July 2010, triggering alarm among experts. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS)
A stuffed lionfish is seen at the La Salle Foundation of Natural Sciences in Caracas September 7, 2010. Six lionfish, which are native to the Indian Ocean, were accidentally released into the Caribbean in 1992, when an aquarium in southern Florida was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. Lionfish, which are believed to threaten native marine wildlife in Venezuela and the livelihoods of coastal towns dependent on fishing and tourism, have since been detected in at least 30 locations across the country since July 2010, triggering alarm among experts. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS)
Licensed divers catch a red lionfish on a Cayman Islands reef in this undated handout photo. More than 300 scuba divers have been certified to catch red lionfish in a race to prevent the invasive and voracious species from consuming all the young and small fish on theCayman Islands' famous corals reefs. REUTERS/Kimberly Parker/DiveTech/Handout (CAYMAN ISLANDS - Tags: ANIMALS SOCIETY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
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"Until now, few sightings of the alien lionfish Pterois miles have been reported in the Mediterranean and it was questionable whether the species could invade this region like it has in the western Atlantic," Demetris Kletou, co-author of the paper said in a statement. "But we've found that lionfish have recently increased in abundance, and within a year have colonized almost the entire south eastern coast of Cyprus, assisted by sea surface warming."

Lionfish were originally found in the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They likely ended up in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic after being released from home aquariums. The invasion of the Mediterranean has different roots.

The expansion of the Suez canal has given lionfish even more access to the Mediterranean Sea, and warming water temperatures have provided the perfect environment for the invasive species.

A lionfish invasion is particularly worrying because they can eat their way through the food chain, devouring all kinds of fish and crustaceans, including commercially important species. They also reproduce at an alarming pace, with each female lionfish producing about 2 million eggs per year.

In North Carolina, lionfish are eating so much that some individuals are considered obese. In Florida, some have resorted to cannibalism because of the high numbers there. This year, Florida also started the Lionfish Challenge encouraging divers to kill as many lionfish as they possibly could. Maybe that tradition will spread to the Mediterranean as well.

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