Utility of Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) Resources for Black Bass (Micropterus spp.) Conservation and Management
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures
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The black basses (Micropterus spp.) are a genus of apex predators and important game fishes in North American freshwater ecosystems. Efforts to improve recreational bass fisheries have led to the widespread stocking of black bass species, often facilitating introgressive hybridization between endemic and non-native species. Phenotypic differentiation of black bass species and their hybrids is notoriously unreliable. Molecular tools are needed to rapidly and accurately assess bass populations, whether they are intensively managed in a reservoir or the target for conservation in un-impacted streams. My thesis describes the development and application of practical tools to better integrate molecular analyses with black bass conservation and management. Following a review of pertinent literature in Chapter I, in Chapter II I detail the development, validation, and field-testing of a methodology to collect bass DNA through buccal swabbing. This method is simple, robust, and cost-effective, allowing angler involvement in genetic sample collection from bass populations otherwise difficult to obtain. In Chapter III, I utilize recently developed diagnostic black bass single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) marker panels to provide one of the first genetic analyses of black bass populations in the Altamaha River Basin (ARB). My results, from over 500 individuals, shed light on the status of introduced Spotted Bass (M. punctulatus) in the basin, hybridization patterns of introduced Shoal Bass (M. cataractae), and provide an important revision to the accepted intergrade status of native Largemouth Bass in the drainage. I also provide evidence pointing to the presence of a genetically distinct bass in the ARB Coastal Plain, deserving of closer scrutiny in the future.