Hybridization in the black basses (Micropterus spp.) is well documented. Hybrid zones between diverged lineages offer a unique opportunity to study evolutionary processes related to speciation. Phenotypic surveys have identified an estuarine population of Largemouth Bass in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
Hybrid zones between diverged lineages offer an unique opportunity to study evolutionary processes related to speciation. Natural and anthropogenic hybridization in the black basses (Micropterus spp.) is well documented, including an extensive intergrade zone between the widespread northern Largemouth Bass (M. salmoides) and the Florida Bass (M. floridanus). Phenotypic surveys have identified an estuarine population of Largemouth Bass (M. salmoides) in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, with larger relative weight and smaller adult size compared to inland populations, suggesting a potential third lineage of largemouth bass. To determine the evolutionary relationships between these Mobile Delta bass populations, M. salmoides, and M. floridanus, putative pure and intergrade populations of all three groups were sampled across the eastern United States. Phylogenetic analyses of 8,582 nuclear SNPs derived from genotype-by-sequencing and the ND2 mitochondrial gene determined that Delta bass populations stem from a recently diverged lineage of Largemouth Bass. Using a novel quantitative pipeline, a panel of 73 diagnostic SNPs was developed for the three lineages, evaluated for accuracy, and then used to screen 881 samples from 52 sites for genetic integrity and hybridization on the Agena MassARRAY platform. These results strongly support a redrawing of native ranges for both the intergrade zone and M. floridanus, which has significant implications for current fisheries management. Furthermore, Delta bass ancestry was shown to contribute significantly to the previously described intergrade zone between northern Largemouth Bass and Florida Bass, suggesting a more complex pattern of secondary contact and introgression among these diverged Micropterus lineages.