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White Bass (Morone chrysops)


Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, 39762 USA

  • Fig. 1. White bass Morone chrysops Thomas, Bonner, Whitside, USGS
  • Fig. 2. Distribution of White bass. 1. At least 35 states 2.Russia, France, Portugal

Context & Content[+] Expand

Class Actinopterygii, subclass Neopterygii, infraclass Teleostei, superorder Acanthopterygii, order Perciformes, suborder Percoidei, family Moronidae. Genus Morone consists of four species: M. chrysops, M. americana, M. mississippiensis, M. saxatilis (USGS 2013).

General Characteristics[+] Expand

White bass are a deep-bodied, ray-finned fish with a white to silvery overall coloration. The high arching back is usually a darker gray-blue color and 4 to 7 dark stripes extending along the length of the body are one of the most distinguishing features (Ross 2001). Average weights of observed individuals are approximately 0.5 kg and range in lengths between 20 and 30 cm. White bass reach sexual maturity between the ages of 1 to 2 years and 2 to 3 years for males and females, respectively (Colvin 1993). Despite the small average size for this species, the largest white bass on record for the United States is 3.09 kg (6.8 lbs.) and 2.44 kg (5.38 lbs.) for the state of Mississippi (Ross 2001).

Distribution[+] Expand

The native range of Morone chrysops extends through the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River basins from Quebec to Manitoba and south to Louisiana. From east to west, this range starts at the Gulf Slope drainages from the Mississippi River through Louisiana, to the Rio Grande River system, in Texas and New Mexico (Page and Burr 1991).
Introduced populations have extended the range nearly encompassing the entire United States from Washington to Florida and from California to Pennsylvania (Ross 2001; Burgess 1980). The means of introduction into all of these water systems has been intentional stocking for the purpose of sport fishing, both legally and illegally (Dill and Cordone 1997). Nonindigenous occurrences have been observed in at least 35 states, Puerto Rico, and around the world as far as Russia, France, and Portugal (Hill et al. 1989).

Form & Function[+] Expand

Morone chrysops, commonly referred to as white bass, is a common sport fish of the Moronidae family which is one of the 160 families of the order Perciformes. Over 10,000 individual species make up this order of "perch—like fishes," making it one of the largest orders of all vertebrates. Furthermore, the white bass is categorized into the suborder Percoidea, the largest suborder of Perciformes, along with over 3,800 more species and 77 additional families to Moronidae (Helfman 2009).
Percoids, like the white bass, are all described by several characteristics. First, there are spines present in the dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins. Next, all Percoids have a specific set of fins including: two dorsal fins, never an adipose fin, pelvic fins in the abdominal position, as well as laterally placed and ventrally oriented pectoral fins. Also, the maxilla excluded from the gape, presence of ctenoid scales, a physoclistous swim bladder, and acellular bones all are found in species of this suborder. (Helfman 2009).
Moronidae, a family more commonly referred to as the "temperate basses," includes white perch (M. americana), yellow bass (M. mississippiensis), and striped bass (M. saxatilis), in addition to M. chrysops (USGS 2013). Although not exclusive, a key component to the Moronid species is the presence of 1 spine and 5 rays in the pelvic fin, as seen in all four species (Ross 2001).
The temperate bass species can be distinguished from other families within the Perciformes by several characteristics. Moronids have two dorsal fins; one posterior spiny dorsal fin with 5-15 spines, and one soft dorsal fin without spines that does not protrude past the caudal fin. The thoracic pelvic fins are located almost directly ventral to the pectoral fins and the rays of each fin are completely connected by membrane. The caudal tail is homocercal, and the anal fin contains three or more spines (Ross 2001). The gill opercules have a sharp spine along the posterior side and its opening extends cephalo-ventrally. The upper jaw is immobile and the posterior section of the upper jaw is visible when the jaw is closed (Ross 2001).
To distinguish the M. chrysops from the rest of the Moronids, several specific features are observed. First, the spiny and soft dorsal fins are separate of one another. The anal fin contains 11 to 13 soft rays, and the third spine is larger than the second. Teeth are present at the back of the tongue in a single patch, opposed to the double patch arrangement found in striped bass. Finally, 4 to 7 dark lateral lines are present and are interspaced with a secondary row of fainter stripes (Ross 2001).

Ontogeny & Reproduction[+] Expand

There is no information on the subject at this time

Ecology[+] Expand

Diet and feeding habit of white bass varies with both age and size. Initially, juveniles feed on other larval fish as well as zooplankton. With age, the size of the food increases. Although fish are a part of their diet throughout their life cycle, it does not appear to be a necessary food item until individuals reach approximately 40 mm in length (Ruelle 1971; Simms 1972; Saul et al. 1893). Once an individual has reached 40 mm (and/or a year old), the diets shift to being predominately piscivorous, however, most still consume insects (Colvin 1993).
One study has suggested that sight may be the dominant sense used by white bass to capture food, and that foraging patterns are designated to one part of the day, usually dusk (Greene 1962). Feeding along the surface of the water has frequently been observed, and it has been hypothesized to coincide with zooplankton congregating at the surface (Colvin 1993).
Outside of the spawning season, white bass have not been observed to show preference for one habitat over another. Studies investigating habitat preference recorded findings of equal distribution over different habitats such as rocky bottoms, sandy bottoms, wind-protected bottoms, and mud bottoms (Matthews et al. 1992). Morone chrysops are typically observed in large schools at depths of 5 meters or less (Boaze 1972).

Behavior[+] Expand

Behavior in white bass has been most closely studied in relation to the species' spawning period. White bass will move upstream when in river systems or to shallow waters in reservoirs to prepare for the spawning period. In the spring, when the water temperature reaches the 7 to 13 degrees centigrade range, the males will start their migration to smaller rivers (or towards shallower waters in a reservoir) (Riggs 1955; Webb and Moss 1968). The females will shortly follow suit, although it has been observed being as long as a month later. Post migration (and pre-spawn) both the males and the females will form large unisex schools until the females become ripe (Colvin 1993).
Courtship usually involves a single female and several males. The male fish remain close to the female and continuously bump the abdominal area of the female. The female will then swim to the surface and, while turning in a circle with the males, release her eggs which are fertilized by the surrounding males (Webb and Moss 1968). The eggs of white bass are demersal and adhesive so they will attach to rock, vegetation, or other surfaces as they sink from the surface (Riggs 1955; Dietz 1967; Starnes et al. 1983). It has been observed that females only release several thousand eggs at a time (produce up to 1 million eggs within a spawning period), so it is assumed that this process is repeated again and again with several groups of males over the spawning period (Dietz 1967). The spawning period lasts roughly two months, and both sexes depart the area post-spawn usually within a week with no parental care for the eggs (Riggs 1955; Ruelle 1977).

Genetics[+] Expand

White bass have been a frequent subject species of scientific studies, specifically due to its genetics. Genetically speaking, white bass are known for their tolerance for more extreme environments and generally being a "hardy" species. However, most white bass lack the "lunker" size preferred by anglers. Striped bass, the largest of the temperate basses, often reach sizes up to 15 pounds with the Mississippi state record weighing in at 30 kg (66 lbs.) (Ross 2011). Therefore, it is a very common practice to cross the two M. chrysops x M. saxatilis with the result of a hybrid striped bass or "wiper."
Similar to its breeding stock, hybrid striped bass are generally a schooling fish found in open water. However, they are much more tolerant of warmer water and lower dissolved oxygen levels than striped bass, and grow much faster and larger than white bass. This hybridization has not been documented as naturally occurring event, so successful crosses are confined to hatchery environments where the hybrids can be cultured and then stocked into public waters (IDNR, 2013). Like other hybrid crosses seen in nature, the gametes are either not fully developed or are nonexistent in the first generation crosses, making reproduction very difficult.
In a study by Noga et al. (1994), striped bass and hybrid striped bass were exposed to stressors such as salinity changes and extreme dissolved oxygen levels, and the responses were measured. The results of the study showed that the plasma cortisol concentration both increased faster and reached a higher concentration in the striped bass than in the hybrid striped bass exposed to same levels of stress. Furthermore, the cortisol levels remained significantly higher in the striped bass for up to 48 hours after the trials. White bass continue to be a cornerstone species in research of hybridization of freshwater fish species.

Conservation[+] Expand

Within Mississippi, white bass populations are stable and not currently in danger of decline (Ross 2001). However, suggested studies have brought up the notion that the natural gene pool of M. chrysops has shifted over time. The hybridization of white bass as a result of the introduction and intermixing of closely related species possibly could have altered the native species to what is seen today (Ross 2001).

Acknowledgements[+] Expand

There is no information on the subject at this time

Remarks[+] Expand

While the origin of Morone is unknown, the species epithet chrysops is Greek meaning "golden eye." White bass are regarded as excellent fighters, and are considered superb table fare. White bass make up 13% of total harvested weight in reservoirs in which they reside (Colvin 1993).

Literature Cited[+] Expand

Boaze, J. L. 1972. Effects of landlocked alewife introduction white bass and walleye populations, Claytor Lake, Virginia. Diss. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.

Burgess, G. H. 1980. Morone chrysops (Rafinesque), white bass. in D. S. Lee, et al. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh. Page 574.

Colvin, M. A. 1993. Ecology and management of white bass: a literature review. Missouri Department of Conservation, Dingell-Johnson Project F-1-R-42, Study I-31, Job 1, Final Report.

Dietz, E. M. 1967. Fisheries investigations and surveys of the waters of region 5-A: Experimental arti?cial propagation of white bass (Roccus chrysops). Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Federal Aid in Sport?sh Restoration, Project F-9-R-14, Job E-9, Completion Report, Austin.

Dill, W. A., and A. J. Cordone. 1997. History and status of introduced fishes in California, 1871- 1996. State of California, Resources Agency, Department of Fish and Game.

Greene, G. N. 1962. White bass feeding: scent or sight. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 91:326.

Helfman, G. S., B. B. Collette, D. E. Facey, and B. W. Bowen. 2009. The diversity of fishes: biology, evolution, and ecology. Second Edition. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, West Sussex, UK.

Hill, J., J. W. Evans, and M. J. Van Den Avyle. 1989. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (South Atlantic) - striped bass. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 82(11.118).

Houser, A., and H. E. Bryant. 1970. Age, growth, sex composition, and maturity of white bass in Bull Shoals Reservoir. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife Technical Paper 49.

Integrated Taxonomic Information System [IT IS]. 2013. . Accessed 26 Mar 2013.

Matthews, W.J., F. P. Gelwick, and J. J. Hoover. 1992. Food and habitat use by juveniles of species of Micropterus and Morone in a southwestern reservoir. Tranactions of the American Fisheries Society 121:5466.

McCormick, J. H. 1978. Effects of temperature on hatching success and survival of larvae in the white bass. The Progressive Fish-Culturist 40:133-137.

Noga, E. J., J. H. Kerby, W. King, D. P. Aucoin, and F. Giesbrecht. 1994. Quantitative comparison of the stress response of striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and hybrid striped bass (Morone saxatilis X Morone chrysops and Morone saxatilis X Morone americana). American Journal of Veterinary Research 50:405-409.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Riggs, C.D. 1955. Reproduction of the white bass, Morone chrysops. Investigations of Indiana Lakes and Streams 4: 87-110.

Ross, S. T., and W. M. Brenneman. 2001. The inland fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi, USA.

Ruelle, R. 1977. Reproductive cycle and fecundity of white bass in Lewis and Clark Lake. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 106:67-76.

Saul, B. M., J. L. Wilson, D. C. Peterson, and J. M. Richardson. 1983. Food habits and growth of young-of-year white bass in two East Tennessee Reservoirs. Proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 36:115-124.

Simms, A. W. 1972. A study of the food habits and condition of the white bass, Morone chrysops (Rafinesque), in Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee, Kentucky. Master's Thesis, Tennessee Technological University.

Starnes, L.B., P. A. Hackney, and T. A. McDonough. Larval fish transport: A case study of white bass. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 112:390-397.

U.S. Geological Survey [USGS]. 2013. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. . Accessed 26 Mar 2013.

Webb, J. F., and D. D. Moss. 1968. Spawning behavior and age and growth of white bass in Center Hill Reservoir, Tennessee. Proceedings of the Annual Conference Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 21: 343-357.

Contributing editor of this account was Clinton Smith.

Order[+] Expand

Perciformes, also called the Percomorphi or Acanthopteri, are the largest order of vertebrates, containing about 40% of all bony fish. Perciformes means "perch-like". They belong to the class of ray-finned fish, and comprise over 10,000 species found in almost all aquatic environments. The order contains about 160 families, which is the most of any order within the vertebrates.[1] It is also the most variably sized order of vertebrates, ranging from the 7–mm (1/4–in) Schindleria brevipinguis to the marlins in the Makaira species and the heaviest of bony fish, Mola mola. They first appeared and diversified in the Late Cretaceous. Among the well-known members of this group are cichlids, California sheephead, sunfish/bluegills, damselfish, bass, and perch.

Family[+] Expand

The Moronidae, also known as the "temperate basses", are a family of perciform fishes consisting of at least six freshwater, brackish water, and marine species. Moronidae fish are most commonly found near the coastal regions of eastern North America (including the Gulf of Mexico), northern Africa and Europe. The family includes the genera Morone and Dicentrarchus.

About This Project.

This website is an ongoing project by Ichthyology students of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture, within the College of Forest Resources to provide information on the biology and ecology of fishes that occur in Mississippi. These accounts were written by undergraduate students as a course assignment, generally follow the format of Mammalian Species, and nomenclature follows Nelson 1994.

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