During a recent largemouth bass fishing tournament one of the anglers reeled in what appeared to be a mutant fish straight out of the cartoons, that catch then set in motion events that culminated with biologists getting involved in attempting to explain how a largemouth bass could possibly be golden. After a week or so of searching for answers the Quinte Series tournament golden bass has been explained, and the explanation is actually rather lengthy, so before reading I’d suggest scrolling through these remarkable photos of what is probably the only golden largemouth bass you’ll ever see in your lifetime:
The Tufts Lab at Queen’s University (a school that actively recruited me in H.S. I might add) put up this lengthy Facebook post which explains how this largemouth bass came to be the most unique largemouth bass most people have ever seen:
Strange “gold” Largemouth Weighed-in at Quinte Series Event
The attached photo of a strange-looking “gold” Largemouth Bass was taken by one of our crew (Rachael Hornsby) at a recent Quinte Series tournament on the Bay of Quinte. Although it had a striking gold colour, the Tournament Directors agreed (correctly in our opinion) that it was a Largemouth based on other features and it was allowed to be weighed in.
On Monday, we decided to consult some of the experts in the Biology Department at Queen’s University to determine how a Largemouth could ever look like this. We thought that the explanations could provide an interesting lesson about colour in fish (& other animals) for a broader audience, so we decided to turn this into another post for our Facebook page.
The first potential explanation is that this is the result of a recessive gene present in the population (similar to blue eyes in humans). This seems unlikely because it would probably occur much more frequently if this was the case.
A better explanation is that this is the result of a rare genetic mutation. In this case, one of the genes that contributes to the normal process of colour formation in the scales has probably undergone a random mutation and is not functioning properly.
For those people that are interested in a little more detail on this topic, here is the full explanation provided by Dr Robert Montgomerie*…
“Normally, the fish scales receive incoming white light and different molecular structures convert white light to blue or yellow, which make the fish look green. In the yellow (gold) bass, it is likely that some spontaneous mutation occurred that prevented the scales from making the proper molecular structures to convert white light to blue. Without the structures that convert white light to blue, the fish looks yellow (gold) rather than green (which is what you see when blue and yellow combine). It’s not that the bass has gained a yellow pigment but rather lost the ability to produce the blue colours that make its scales look green.”
*Dr Robert Montgomerie is a Professor and Research Chair in Biology at Queen’s University. His areas of expertise include evolutionary biology & animal colouration.
Fishing over the years I’ve caught some mutant looking fish (largemouth bass included), but nothing really compares to a fish taking on an entirely different color. And I think it’s safe to assume that we don’t see more fish like this for the same reason that we don’t see more albino fish, because they lack natural camouflage and are easy targets in the wild.
For more on this remarkable golden bass you can follow their Facebook post by clicking through below: