FWC scientists caught a previously unidentified black bass species during sampling in Holmes Creek in the Florida Panhandle. They proposed naming the fish the Choctaw Bass. Photo courtesy FWC
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) - Florida wildlife officials say they've discovered a new species of fish in the southeastern U.S.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission scientists say the fish they have found is a new species of black bass. They've proposed naming it the Choctaw bass, with the scientific name of Micropterus haiaka.
The discovery was revealed at a meeting of the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society earlier this year.
The wildlife commission says scientists first noticed a new DNA profile while testing a bass specimen from the Chipola River in 2007 as part of a broader genetic study of bass.
"We didn't set out to find a new species. It found us," said Mike Tringali, head of the genetics laboratory at the wildlife commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
The new species later was found in coastal river systems in Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle.
The new fish's name was chosen because its range overlaps the historic range of the Native American Choctaw, Tringali said.
"Haiaka" is a Choctaw word meaning "revealed" or "manifest," he said.
The American Fisheries Society still must approve the proposed scientific name.
Scientists say the Choctaw bass is physically very similar to the spotted bass, and that's why no one had previously distinguished the two different species, in spite of decades of bass research.