Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides (Lacepède, 1802)
Julie E. Claussen
The Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides was the first black bass to be recorded in North America during the 1562 French expedition by Ribault in northern Florida (MacCrimmon and Robbins 1975). Although Linnaeus described some of the centrarchids, it was Lacépède who first formally described this fish in 1802 and gave it the scientific name Labrus salmoides. In 1876, Nelson changed the name to Micropterus nigricans, and in 1878, Jordan described it as M. pallidus. Finally, in 1884, Forbes described the fish as M. salmoides, which is currently the valid scientific name. In 1949, two subspecies were recognized, the Northern Largemouth Bass M. salmoides salmoides and the Florida Largemouth Bass M. s. floridanus (Bailey and Hubbs 1949). These two taxa are now recognized as distinct species based on molecular genetic data (Kassler et al. 2002; Near et al. 2003).
The Largemouth Bass is the most widely distributed of the black bass and had an extensive native range with an eastern limit of the Atlantic coast extending from the Suwannee River in northern Florida up to the James River drainage of Virginia and further northward into southern Ontario, but not including the East Coast north of Virginia nor the New England states (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). The retreating glaciers of the Pleistocene allowed for the westward expansion of the Largemouth Bass, from southern Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes basin and the lower Boundary Waters. The western limits included much of the western Mississippi River basin, including parts of the Great Plains, through western Iowa, eastern Nebraska, central Kansas, western Oklahoma, and central Texas. The exact southwestern limit is unclear, but it likely included the Rio Conchos and the Santa Engracia watersheds in northern Mexico. The southern limits were the Gulf of Mexico from southern Mexico into the panhandle of Florida as far south and east as the Suwannee River (MacCrimmon and Robbins 1975).