top of page

It’s Official!!!... and a little confusing

In 2023, the American Fisheries Society’s Names of Fishes committee published the 8th Edition of Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. This publication sets the official standards for naming fish in North America to ensure consistency in communication among scientists, educators, managers, and the public. Here, you can find common and scientific names for species such as the esteemed Nobulb Snaggletooth (Astronesthes richardsoni) and the ferocious Guatemala Dwarf Sleeper (Leptophilypnus guatemalensis). In the publication, aficionados of the ever evolving and exciting genre of black bass taxonomy may have observed something new in the genus Micropterus. For the first time, Largemouth Bass and Florida Bass are listed as separate species. The new designation is based on a 2022 paper by Kim et. al. of Yale University and published in the journal Scientific Reports.

You may be asking yourself, “I thought these were already different species? Why is this happening now?”. If you are, excellent questions!

Prior to the 2023 AFS publication, both species were officially lumped together as Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) and Florida Bass were considered an unofficial subspecies as M.s. floridanus. The history here goes way back to the early 1800’s when Lacèpéde (1802) coined M. salmoides to describe a fish collected in South Carolina. Around the same time, Cuvier (1828) described a specimen native to Lake Huron and named it M. nigricans. Now, when these two scientific names were put out, there was some confusion as to what was what within the black bass family. It wasn’t until 1881 with Henshall’s Book of Black Bass that M. salmoides was officially applied to the common name Largemouth Bass and M. nigricans dropped from use. Jump to 1949 when Bailey and Hubbs used meristic traits to classify Florida Bass and Northern Bass as distinct (but unofficial) subspecies of Largemouth Bass. Meristic study looks at physical differences between animals such as number of fin rays and scales. From this work, it was put forth that Largemouth populations in peninsular Florida are distinct from bass populations in northern regions and that there is a large zone of natural hybridization through North Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas (keep in mind South Carolina from Lacèpéde, we are getting there!).

On to the modern age of genetics. With advances from gel electrophoresis through microsatellites, more than a few articles have been published describing differences in Largemouth populations. In Florida for instance, three genetic management units are used by the state in their efforts to conserve native bass . Though numerous studies have looked at smaller geographic regions, no single study investigated the full range of black bass. Enter the Yale paper by Kim which used the newest available technology to look at 394 representative samples across the native range of Micropterus species. Kim and his group show that Largemouth Bass from Florida through the Atlantic coast to the Carolinas share more genetic commonalities than previously thought, including in a large part of what had been described as a hybrid zone. The Yale group also delineated a separate population of Largemouth bass west of the Florida panhandle all the way north to the Great Lakes. Put this together and we have the basis for two new species.

Map adapted from Kim et. al. 2022

With new species comes new names. To figure that out, we need to go back to the 1800’s and the French guys. As Lacèpéde named his sample from South Carolina, and we have adjusted genetic ranges, Florida Bass are now known as M. salmoides. Taking M. salmoides for Florida bass means a new name is needed for

everything else. For this, we go with Cuvier sampling and naming fish from Lake Huron and Largemouth Bass are now M. nigricans. As simple as packing daisies, right?

So why does all this matter? Well, for one, you may be seeing that M. nigricans term here or there as it is now the scientific way of discussing Largemouth Bass...which are officially different from Florida Bass. The new species terms will no doubt require an adjustment period for managers and anglers, and for the moment, we at Red Hills plan to continue using Florida and Northern to differentiate the two. Beyond the new names though, the designations allow us to better understand and conserve one of the most popular and exciting outdoor past times in North America. By acknowledging the differences between Largemouth and Florida Bass at a scientific level, we can tailor conservation efforts to address the unique challenges each species faces, enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem health. This, in turn, helps ensure anglers can continue to enjoy the thrill of the catch for generations to come.


bottom of page