Black Bass Hybrids: A Natural Phenomenon in an Unnatural World
Jeffrey B. Koppelman
Abstract.—Populations and species that comprise the genus Micropterus are threatened in their native ranges and have been since the advent of stocking in North America. Black bass have been cultured and stocked for more than 100 years and this universal practice has a side effect of homogenizing what has taken nature millions of years to separate. Hybridization is a natural reproductive function that directly leads to increased genetic diversity in offspring, but hybrids between native and introduced fish can disrupt the indigenous genetic characters local populations need for long-term success. No black bass species is immune—our passion for expanding fishing opportunities, coupled with our need to alter aquatic environments for human populations, has affected all of the Micropterus spp. The majority of taxa have relatively small distributions and they will not benefit from the addition of novel black bass from other populations. As conservation biologists we have a responsibility to protect our native black bass species and their component populations to the same extent that we provide to other native flora and fauna, including protecting them from our own actions.