For recreational fishing enthusiasts, the thrill of snagging their next catch comes with discovering what’s hooked on the end of the line. In many freshwater streams and rivers—across the central and eastern parts of the U.S.—anglers are often catching a popular freshwater game fish: the smallmouth bass. Now, scientists have discovered a new level of biodiversity within that species.
Previously, scientists identified two subspecies of smallmouth bass: the widespread Northern smallmouth bass and a much smaller subgroup called the Neosho smallmouth bass. The Neosho are native to an ecologically isolated region of the lower Midwest known as the Central Interior Highlands, which weave through southwestern Missouri, northern Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma.
To help the conservation departments manage the present diversity of this smaller subspecies of smallmouth bass, two University of Missouri researchers—Joe Gunn and Lori Eggert—worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Resource Unit of the U.S. Geological Survey at Oklahoma State University to collect over 800 fin samples from smallmouth bass at 43 different sites in the Central Interior Highlands. The MU researchers helped analyze the samples for genetic diversity.