Redeye bass speciation

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
fishfunkk's picture
Redeye bass speciation

I know most of you are midwesterners on here, but any of you have any opinions on redeye bass taxonomy? I haven't really seen roughfish make any moves in splitting M. coosae up further. I live in the epicenter of the debate right now and there are a few projects involving looking further into this down the pipeline, pending funding. So, I'm curious to hear some perspectives from elsewhere. Also, there are even more proposed species splits than those pictured.No automatic alt text available.

Can't help you, but it's

Can't help you, but it's interesting.

Susquehannock's picture
Redeye bass

I'm no taxonomist, but I personally believe that we should only recognize about eight species of black bass. Some of these less known species- like Guadalupe and shoal bass- are undeniably different, but I think that too many splits are ultimately just cause for further confusion.


Gary's picture

If the fish are different, they are different and should be recognized as such. Looking at the examples above, it is not hard to see these are each distinct from one another. Look at how much trouble people used to have recognizing different types of redhorse, and now it's plain as day which one it is as soon as it comes out of the water (with certain exceptions, of course.) I guess what I'm saying is that the more familiar we get with the differences, the easier it is to recognize what you've got when you see it. I'm all for recognizing the vast diversity among redeye bass, and look forward to the day I can finally make the trip to seek them out. Good topic of discussion!

Do not meddle in the affairs of BAGMAN, for thou art crunchy and good with Old Bay seasoning...


the pyromaniac
the pyromaniac's picture
I've been following this

I've been following this debate for about 5 years now, and there are enough differences that I think the scientific community has to at least entertain the idea that these are six distinct species.  There was a paper published in 2012 or 2013 that delineated enough differences between them to argue that they should be recognized as a minimum of five unique species  I showed this thread to Grace to see what she thought and she's convinced (before I gave her my thoughts) that these guys are all JUST different enough that they should be separated.  I'm with her.




Let there be fire!

Corey's picture
Species of Bass

I tend to be conservative on these issues, because biologists have an annoying tendency to reverse themselves - or for one person to split a taxon and then another person will come along and refute all of their arguments and lump again. If that happens, then I have to go through every lifelist on this website and delete everybody's lifelist entries for the now-invalid species. I don't like to do that, so I hold off until the taxonomy seems settled and the publications begin to agree. I maintain some other species databases and believe me, digging into them to reverse split species is a nightmare.

I also tend to be a bit old-school with regard to the definition of species. The definition of the taxon has drifted from asking "Do the two populations could create viable offspring (mammals)?" (if not, then they are seperate species - but clearly this doesn't work for fish) to "Do the two populations exist with no interbreeding and no intergrades?" (which is difficult to define, especially with introductions) to "Are they genetically different in any significant way?" which can be meaningless if the genes aren't expressed, despite what the gel jocks tell us, and if you're talking coregonids there are even the new epigenetic factors to consider. There's also "Can they be distinguished visually" which is a more informal distinction that I think carries some weight, but makes species that have vareigated coloration in the form of spots, stripes, or other color differences more likely to be split than those that have more uniform coloration. Then you have native strains that maybe once were a species but now have interbred with stocked fish - are those species? What if the native strain went extinct and now you have a new fish of the same species with a little remnant DNA hanging around?

In the case of the redeye bass, I haven't been forced to look into it so far, but I'm far from an expert on the group. They sure look different and are a wickedly cool group of fish, though. Honestly, I'll probably wait for the publication of comprehensive paper (or, ideally, a book) on the subject. If that exists, we'd appreciate being pointed at it.

We encourage people to add what right now is a subspecies or morph as an additional photo tacked onto the lifelist entry for the parent species - that way, if we get around to promoting the strain to species level you can just move it. Of course, we're open to whatever the community here wants to do.



uconn fishhead
uconn fishhead's picture
Bass Species


Hi,  I agree with Corey.  In all fields, scientists make new proposals, but the ones that stick are the ones that stand the test of time - are cooroborated by further research and become generally accepted by the experts in the field.

So as anglers, we should be more conservative and wait to see how things shake out.

In a quick internet search, I found no evidence that there is any consensus on splitting up the M. coosae taxon.

I found this summary, which has more photos of suggeted new Redeye species:

The article suggests there are 9 "accepted" species, but as far as I know the American Fisheries Society has not yet accepted the 'Florida Bass' as a separate species (only a subspecies of Largemouth).


blackbullhead's picture
Species concepts

As a fish taxonomist, I find this to be a fascinating, but also infuriating topic. 

There's a growing group of scientists that don't believe any species are real...rather that they're humankind's categorical construct that's being forced onto a highly complex and dynamic spectrum of organisms. I don't entirely buy into that..seems that nature is mostly pretty good at making discrete (or nearly so) forms. However, speciation isn't instantaneous, and we are only seeing a "species" in a tiny snapshot of its evolutionary history. When one species splits into two, we expect them to accumulate differences (genetic and morphological) over time, but where we draw the line is arbitrary.

As Corey said, the process of recognizing and describing species is certainly an iterative one..It's likely to take a great deal of revision before we get the story right. But, one thing is for certain, it's way easier describe and publish new species than it is to synonymize (merge) existing ones.

Cast_and_Blast's picture
Black Bass Family Tree

I think it would be nice to have a family tree, so to speak, regarding the morphs, cousins, twisted sisters, etc. of the whole Black Bass family. Basically, which ones are closely related to those which are distant cousins, including the Florida Largemouth. I'll be honest, I'm quite confused by it all. Anyone up for the task?

uconn fishhead
uconn fishhead's picture
Freshwater Bass Family Tree

Google "Family Tree of Freshwater Bass".  One of the images that comes up covers the basics. The different taxa of Redeye Bass and the Florida Bass are currently considered subspecies by most taxonomists.  If you were to exand the Googled tree to subspecies, they by definition would be sub-branches off the Redeye and Largemouth branches respectively.

There are also a bunch of articles on-line (at least abstracts) - Google stuff like 'Genetic Relationships of Freshwater Bass' (or of 'Micropterus')

Cast_and_Blast's picture
Thanks uconn.  I found some

Thanks uconn.  I found some helpful info.

Wes Ketchum
Wes Ketchum's picture
I've seend some of the Redeye

I've seend some of the Redeye species pop up on the Recent Freshwater Listlist Entries page before. How are people entering these or has that function been removed? 

I'm for some sort of recognition on the site but maybe only one redeye counts towards your life list. Same can be said for all the subspecies of trout. It would add to the resource value that this site has to include the subspeciea and their ranges. 

Either way, I really enjoy all this site has to offer to us Fishnerds and appreciate all the time and effort put in by those who run it. 

Wes Ketchum

uconn fishhead
uconn fishhead's picture
Let's leave it as is

I think the site's system of including subspecies as additional photos under each species' page is sufficient.  If taxonomists are constantly debating and changing ideas on the species level, imagine the pandemonium to try and keep track of all the (legitimate) subspecies out there.

Corey has and obviously still does put a lot of time into this site.  If he were to try to keep track of and make modifications to the site at the ever-changing subspecies level he would no longer have time to go fishing.

Casey Shanaberger
Casey Shanaberger's picture

With Redeyes, I believe that in the next few years we will see some more speciation and official publications coming out about them. I've seen discussions about speciation with other species that are so similar, but obviously different, like Longear Sunfish, and even carpsuckers. I'd imagine in the future, much like we've seen with the inklings of a massive split in redeyes, we'll see something with Longears. First, there needs to be proof that they are both distinctly genetically and physically different. 

"I swear if you catch another drum"

Moose439's picture
I've been looking into this a
I've been looking into this a lot lately. Apparently they are having a lot of trouble with introduced black bass species hybridizing with the smaller redeye bass. In addition the people responsible for splitting them are now having second thoughts about some of them for some reason. They are in the process of doing genetic testing in them all as we speak. Attached is an excerpt from an Email I received from Alabama Fish and Game last week. 

fishfunkk's picture

Moose 439...Starting in October, alongside the genetics work being done at Auburn, we'll be doing a statewide (AL) distribution survey of the redeye bass spp. but it'll probably be another 3 years before you see anything come of it. You've all likely seen this paper already though:

Now, there's also talk of redeye in the Altamaha drainage being distinct, bartram's bass, a new cryptic spotted bass sp. in MS. As a biologist, this entertains me, but as an angler it's getting frustrating. 




Matt Miller
Matt Miller's picture
Bass fest

There's a short but good new book, Fly Fishing For Redeye Bass, that is not scientific but explains well the different drainages. I suspect that the scientists will accept more splits. I am weird, but taxonomy has been fascinating to me since I was a kid. I'd like to catch all these bass varieties, whether they are species or subspecies, just to see the different drainages  and habitats where they are found, and to see the differences in the fish. I've been catching the different cutthroat trout subspecies for the same reason.