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Concept: Largemouth bass


Non-random mortality associated with commercial and recreational fisheries have the potential to cause evolutionary changes in fish populations. Inland recreational fisheries offer unique opportunities for the study of fisheries induced evolution due to the ability to replicate study systems, limited gene flow among populations, and the existence of unexploited reference populations. Experimental research has demonstrated that angling vulnerability is heritable in Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides, and is correlated with elevated resting metabolic rates (RMR) and higher fitness. However, whether such differences are present in wild populations is unclear. This study sought to quantify differences in RMR among replicated exploited and unexploited populations of Largemouth Bass. We collected age-0 Largemouth Bass from two Connecticut drinking water reservoirs unexploited by anglers for almost a century, and two exploited lakes, then transported and reared them in the same pond. Field RMR of individuals from each population was quantified using intermittent-flow respirometry. Individuals from unexploited reservoirs had a significantly higher mean RMR (6%) than individuals from exploited populations. These findings are consistent with expectations derived from artificial selection by angling on Largemouth Bass, suggesting that recreational angling may act as an evolutionary force influencing the metabolic rates of fishes in the wild. Reduced RMR as a result of fisheries induced evolution may have ecosystem level effects on energy demand, and be common in exploited recreational populations globally.

Concepts: Genetics, Natural selection, Evolution, Metabolism, Experiment, Fishing, Catch and release, Largemouth bass


Introduced predatory fishes have had consistently severe consequences for native fishes in stream environments around the world, although the drivers of these effects are often unclear. In the Swartkops River headwaters in South Africa, native Eastern Cape redfin Pseudobarbus afer were always absent from sites occupied by non-native black basses Micropterus salmoides and Micropterus dolomieu, but generally co-occurred with the native predators Anguilla marmorata and Anguilla mossambica. A natural experiment provided by flood-mediated recolonization of black-bass occupied sites by P. afer demonstrated depletion in black-bass invaded sites. Field behavioural observations of P. afer indicated that they foraged among benthic cover during the day, but suspended in open water at night. As the nocturnal A. marmorata and A. mossambica foraged actively within structural cover at night and M. dolomieu and M. salmoides are diurnal or crepuscular predators, P .afer is thus optimized to avoid predation by native anguillid predators and not the functionally unique predatory black basses. The integration of distributional, temporal population dynamics and behavioural data suggests that the severe effects of Micropterus spp. are probably a consequence of prey naïveté and behaviour evolved to evade native predators.

Concepts: Predation, Stream, Source, Largemouth bass, Spring, Centrarchidae, Smallmouth bass, Black bass


Recently, there has been growing recognition that fish harvesting practices can have important impacts on the phenotypic distributions and diversity of natural populations through a phenomenon known as fisheries-induced evolution. Here we experimentally show that two common recreational angling techniques (active crank baits versus passive soft plastics) differentially target wild largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) based on variation in their behavioural tendencies. Fish were first angled in the wild using both techniques and then brought back to the laboratory and tested for individual-level differences in common estimates of personality (refuge emergence, flight-initiation-distance, latency-to-recapture and with a net, and general activity) in an in-lake experimental arena. We found that different angling techniques appear to selectively target these species based on their boldness (as characterized by refuge emergence, a standard measure of boldness in fishes) but not other assays of personality. We also observed that body size was independently a significant predictor of personality in both species, though this varied between traits and species. Our results suggest a context-dependency for vulnerability to capture relative to behaviour in these fish species. Ascertaining the selective pressures angling practices exert on natural populations is an important area of fisheries research with significant implications for ecology, evolution, and resource management.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Catch and release, Largemouth bass, Centrarchidae, Fish of the United States, Black bass, Rock bass


Intersex as the manifestation of testicular oocytes (TO) in male gonochoristic fishes has been used as an indicator of estrogenic exposure. Here we evaluated largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) or smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) form 19 National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) in the Northeast U.S. inhabiting waters on or near NWR lands for evidence of estrogenic endocrine disruption. Waterbodies sampled included rivers, lakes, impoundments, ponds, and reservoirs. Here we focus on evidence of endocrine disruption in male bass evidenced by gonad histopathology including intersex or abnormal plasma vitellogenin (Vtg) concentrations. During the fall seasons of 2008-2010, we collected male smallmouth bass (n=118) from 12 sites and largemouth bass (n=173) from 27 sites. Intersex in male smallmouth bass was observed at all sites and ranged from 60% to 100%; in male largemouth bass the range was 0-100%. Estrogenicity, as measured using a bioluminescent yeast reporter, was detected above the probable no effects concentration (0.73ng/L) in ambient water samples from 79% of the NWR sites. Additionally, the presence of androgen receptor and glucocorticoid receptor ligands were noted as measured via novel nuclear receptor translocation assays. Mean plasma Vtg was elevated (>0.2mg/ml) in male smallmouth bass at four sites and in male largemouth bass at one site. This is the first reconnaissance survey of this scope conducted on US National Wildlife Refuges. The baseline data collected here provide a necessary benchmark for future monitoring and justify more comprehensive NWR-specific studies.

Concepts: Androgen, Nuclear receptor, Largemouth bass, Centrarchidae, Smallmouth bass, Black bass, National Wildlife Refuge, Nightcrawlers


Differences in behavior and physiology amongst individuals often alter relative fitness levels in the environment. However, the ideal behavioral/physiological phenotype in a given environment may be altered by human activity, leading to an evolutionary response in the affected population. One example of this process can be found in fisheries (including recreational freshwater fisheries), where selective capture and harvest of individuals with certain phenotypes can drive evolutionary change. While some life history traits and behavioral tendencies influencing capture likelihood have been studied, the physiological mechanisms driving this vulnerability remain poorly understood. To address this, we assessed how two major physiological characteristics (hormonal responsiveness to stress and metabolic phenotype) and one behavioral characteristic (boldness) impact the likelihood of an individual being captured by anglers. Largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, derived from a population artificially selected for differential angling vulnerability were assessed for boldness and for stress responsiveness (as indicated by plasma cortisol levels) following an air-exposure challenge. Largemouth bass were then stocked into a pond where experimental angling trials took place, and a subset of captured and uncaptured fish were afterwards assessed for metabolic phenotype. The results showed that stress responsiveness was the primary driver of angling vulnerability, with individuals that experienced lower rises in cortisol following the air-exposure challenge more likely to be captured. Neither boldness nor metabolic phenotype influenced capture probability. The results from this study indicate that fisheries-induced selective pressure may act on physiology, potentially altering stress responsiveness and its associated behaviors in populations exploited by recreational anglers.

Concepts: Gene, Natural selection, Evolution, Biology, Cortisol, Human behavior, Evolutionary physiology, Largemouth bass


Reoviruses (family Reoviridae) infect vertebrate and invertebrate hosts with clinical effects ranging from inapparent to lethal. Here, we describe the discovery and characterization of largemouth bass reovirus (LMBRV), found during investigation of a mortality event in wild largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in 2015 in Wisconsin, USA. LMBRV has spherical virions of approximately 80 nm diameter containing 10 segments of linear double-stranded RNA, aligning it with members of the genus Orthoreovirus, which infect mammals and birds, rather than members of the genus Aquareovirus, which contain 11 segments and infect teleost fishes. LMBRV is only between 24% and 68% similar at the amino acid level to its closest relative, piscine reovirus (PRV), the putative cause of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation of farmed salmon. LMBRV expands the known diversity and host range of its lineage, which suggests that an undiscovered diversity of related pathogenic reoviruses may exist in wild fishes.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Amino acid, RNA, Largemouth bass, Double-stranded RNA viruses


Temperate lakes may contain both coolwater fish species such as walleye (Sander vitreus) and warmwater fish species such as largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). Recent declining walleye and increasing largemouth bass populations have raised questions regarding the future trajectories and management actions for these species. We developed a thermodynamic model of water temperatures driven by downscaled climate data and lake-specific characteristics to estimate daily water temperature profiles for 2148 lakes in Wisconsin, US, under contemporary (1989-2014) and future (2040-2064 and 2065-2089) conditions. We correlated contemporary walleye recruitment and largemouth bass relative abundance to modeled water temperature, lake morphometry, and lake productivity, and projected lake-specific changes in each species under future climate conditions. Walleye recruitment success was negatively related and largemouth bass abundance was positively related to water temperature degree days. Both species exhibited a threshold response at the same degree day value, albeit in opposite directions. Degree days were predicted to increase in the future, although the magnitude of increase varied among lakes, time periods, and global circulation models (GCMs). Under future conditions, we predicted a loss of walleye recruitment in 33-75% of lakes where recruitment is currently supported and a 27-60% increase in the number of lakes suitable for high largemouth bass abundance. The percentage of lakes capable of supporting abundant largemouth bass but failed walleye recruitment was predicted to increase from 58% in contemporary conditions to 86% by mid-century and to 91% of lakes by late century, based on median projections across GCMs. Conversely, the percentage of lakes with successful walleye recruitment and low largemouth bass abundance was predicted to decline from 9% of lakes in contemporary conditions to only 1% of lakes in both future periods. Importantly, we identify up to 85 resilient lakes predicted to continue to support natural walleye recruitment. Management resources could target preserving these resilient walleye populations.

Concepts: Future, Climate, Temperature, Abundance of the chemical elements, Largemouth bass, Great Lakes, Percidae, Black bass


Carry-over effects influence trait responses in later life stages as a result of early experience with environmental cues. Predation risk is an influential stressor and selection exists for early recognition of threats. In particular, invasive species may benefit from carry-over effects by preemptively recognizing and responding to novel predators via latent developmental changes and embryonic learning. In a factorial experiment, we conditioned invasive American bullfrog embryos (Lithobates catesbeianus) to the odor of a novel fish predator, largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) alone or in combination with injured conspecific cues. We quantified developmental carryover in the larval life stage and found that individuals conditioned to the highest risk (fish and injured conspecific cues) grew into longer bodied larvae relative to larvae from lower risk treatments. We also assessed embryonic learning, a behavioral carry-over effect, and found an interaction between embryonic conditioning and larval exposure. Behavioral responses were only found in scenarios when predation risk varied in intensity across life history stages, thus requiring a more flexible antipredator strategy. This indicates a potential trade-off between the two strategies in larval growth and development rates, and time until metamorphosis. Our results suggest that early predator exposure and carry-over effects have significant impacts on life history trajectories for American bullfrogs. This research contributes to our understanding of a potentially important invasion mechanism in an anuran species of conservation concern.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Predation, Ecology, Largemouth bass, Frog, Bullfrog


Fisheries-induced evolution and its impact on the productivity of exploited fish stocks remains a highly contested research topic in applied fish evolution and fisheries science. Although many quantitative models assume that larger, more fecund fish are preferentially removed by fishing, there is no empirical evidence describing the relationship between vulnerability to capture and individual reproductive fitness in the wild. Using males from two lines of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) selectively bred over three generations for either high (HV) or low (LV) vulnerability to angling as a model system, we show that the trait “vulnerability to angling” positively correlates with aggression, intensity of parental care, and reproductive fitness. The difference in reproductive fitness between HV and LV fish was particularly evident among larger males, which are also the preferred mating partners of females. Our study constitutes experimental evidence that recreational angling selectively captures individuals with the highest potential for reproductive fitness. Our study further suggests that selective removal of the fittest individuals likely occurs in many fisheries that target species engaged in parental care. As a result, depending on the ecological context, angling-induced selection may have negative consequences for recruitment within wild populations of largemouth bass and possibly other exploited species in which behavioral patterns that determine fitness, such as aggression or parental care, also affect their vulnerability to fishing gear.

Concepts: Fish, Fishing, Catch and release, Recreational fishing, Largemouth bass, Angling, Overfishing, Fishing techniques


Predicting ecological impacts of invasive species and identifying potentially damaging future invaders are research priorities. Since damage by invaders is characterized by their depletion of resources, comparisons of the ‘functional response’ (FR; resource uptake rate as a function of resource density) of invaders and natives might predict invader impact. We tested this by comparing FRs of the ecologically damaging ‘world’s worst’ invasive fish, the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), with a native equivalent, the Cape kurper (Sandelia capensis), and an emerging invader, the sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus), with the native river goby (Glossogobius callidus), in South Africa, a global invasion hotspot. Using tadpoles (Hyperolius marmoratus) as prey, we found that the invaders consumed significantly more than natives. Attack rates at low prey densities within invader/native comparisons reflected similarities in predatory strategies; however, both invasive species displayed significantly higher Type II FRs than the native comparators. This was driven by significantly lower prey handling times by invaders, resulting in significantly higher maximum feeding rates. The higher FRs of these invaders are thus congruent with, and can predict, their impacts on native communities. Comparative FRs may be a rapid and reliable method for predicting ecological impacts of emerging and future invasive species.

Concepts: Predation, Ecology, Future, Largemouth bass, Clarias gariepinus, Black bass, The Invaders, Cape kurper