Audrey Mahon
Undergraduate, Visual Art Studies

Tyrant of the Sea
Acrylic on paper and cardboard

The genus Pterois, commonly known as the lionfish, is an exotic invasive species currently wreaking havoc in the Gulf of Mexico. They have several advantages over native fish, withstanding a wider range of salinities, breeding prolifically, possessing no natural predators and eating a wide range of small fish, mollusk and crustacean species in the Gulf, the qualifier to their prey being largely what they can fit in their mouths. A few years back, I participated in a study performed by UWF, in which lionfish were dissected, their stomach contents removed, and the consumed prey identified via gene sequencing. It was discovered that in addition to the vast array of small species they consume, they were additionally preying upon immature fish, notably including lionfish fry. This discovery suggests the growing lack of prey species form overconsumption has reached a more desperate level, if the lionfish are turning to cannibalism as often as the data suggests.

In my artwork, Tyrant of the Sea, I  try to depict this damaging cycle, with the other species of fish slowly declining, from overconsumption as prey or from being out-competed for food by the lionfish. Eventually, the lionfish turns to itself. The piece spins, playing as a flip book prediction of the bleak future of the Gulf, or a hopeful return to the natural way of things, depending on the direction it is spun.