A University of Central Oklahoma researcher and two colleagues at Yale University believe that Smallmouth Bass in Mount Ouachita Southeast Oklahoma Streams are a unique species based on genetic studies.
Andrew Taylor, associate professor of fisheries biology at UCLA, recently co-authored research findings with his Yale colleagues Damon Kim and Thomas J. Nir in Springer Nature’s “Scientific Reports,” leading to the possible discovery of a new species of fish.
Researchers have named Smallmouth Bass in the Little River Basin in southeastern Oklahoma “Little River Bass.” This fish can only be found in the wastewater of the Little River Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
“From the genes, we see that this[fish]has its own evolutionary lineage. The genes indicate that there might be a species there,” Taylor said. “It is related to smallmouth, but it is something of its own. This is a new genetic finding, but it should be supported by environmental and morphological studies.”
The same is true of the Neosho Smallmouth Bass found in the Ozark Mountain streams in northeastern Oklahoma. This bass was already considered a subspecies of smallmouth bass.
Researchers have been studying the country’s black bass populations in search of distinct species. Taylor said the small sea bass and its genetic differences from other smallmouth were a surprising discovery.
“It was kind of off people’s radar,” Taylor said of Bass Little River Smallmouth. “We were kind of surprised to see that emerge as a new species.”
The smallmouth bass stocked in Oklahoma Lakes is a Tennessee breed of smallmouth that is fairly common throughout most of the United States, but is only native to an area west of the Appalachian Mountains, east of the Mississippi River, north of Alabama and Georgia.
The smallmouth bass breed was stocked in Tennessee at 49 by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in the late 1980s to early 1990s before it was well understood that they were a very different species than what Oklahoma already had.
They were introduced to many reservoirs across the state to give Oklahoma fishermen more hunting opportunities. State wildlife officials said some of these reservoirs (Broken Bow, Lawtonka, Eufaula, Tenkiller, Murray, and others) maintain a natural mating of non-native smallmouth bass.
All smallmouth bass were considered one species. In the early 1940s, researchers noticed physical and biological differences in stream-dwelling bass in the Ozark Mountains and Ouachita Mountains and suggested that they might be different from northern smallmouth bass.
Since then, these groups have been referred to as “Neosho Smallmouth Bass” and “Ouachita Smallmouth Bass” and each has been treated as a subspecies of Northern Smallmouth Bass.
Using the tools of modern genetics, Taylor and colleagues recommend raising the Neosho Smallmouth Bass to a distinct species now referred to as “Neosho Bass.” These fish are native to the Ozark Currents (Elk River, Illinois River, Barron Fork, etc.) in northeastern Oklahoma that flow into the Arkansas River.
They also raised the indigenous population of southeastern Oklahoma in small riverbeds (Little River, Mountain Fork, Glover River, etc.) to a distinct species referred to as “Little River Bass”.
Taylor and Ken Cunningham, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said more studies need to be done before determining whether these fish should be classified as a distinct species.
State wildlife officials say they will continue to conduct standard fishery surveys on these populations. Cunningham said the Wildlife Service will likely use a social media campaign to encourage hunters to not be self-sufficient in different water bodies to maintain genetic integrity because this species can cross with northern smallmouth bass.
Based on genetic differences, Taylor and his colleagues at Yale University believe there are 19 different species of black bass in the United States, including smallmouth bass in the Ozark Mountains and Ouachita in Oklahoma.
It’s a jaw dropper:Why you should watch the summer bat clocks at Salman Butt Cave
DU agreement on tap
Oklahoma Ducks Unlimited will hold a state convention Friday and Saturday in Bricktown where Ducks Unlimited National President Doug Schoenrock will come to Oklahoma City to deliver the keynote address.
Oklahoma Ducks Unlimited set a record for fundraising this past fiscal year by reaching $1 million for the first time.
Oklahoma Ducks Unlimited donates money to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for various projects, such as improvements in public wildlife management areas, most notably Drummond Flats in Garfield County and Hackberry Flat in Tillman County.
Duck hunting has declined in the past year, but Oklahoma remains a hidden gem of waterfowl hunting, said Randall Cole, president of Oklahoma State Ducks Unlimited.
“We were kept wet for 20 years until last year, and drought hit a large part of the United States and the prairies of Canada,” Cole said.
“(The ducks) are down but, overall, it’s been a good season. Still Oklahoma’s best kept secret is starting to emerge. We are starting to see more duck hunters from out of state, and more people within a state picking up the sport.”
Cole, of Seminole, said Oklahoma has about 47 unlimited branches of ducks in the state, and it is critical that waterfowl hunters participate in the conservation effort.
“The more people involved, the more dollars for conservation. More wetlands. More habitat. It’s not just about ducks. Everything needs water.”
The state convention will be held at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Oklahoma City. For more information, go to ducksunlimited.org.
Reporter Ed Godfrey researches the stories that affect your life. Whether it’s in the news, outdoors, sports – you name it, he wants to report it. Do you have a story idea? Reach out to him at email@example.com or on Twitter @EdGodfrey. Support his work and that of other Oklahoma journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.