Georgia freshwater fish

This is no fish tale: a new Georgia Museum of Natural History Web site offers the most complete look at Georgia fishes, what they are and where they’re found.

Fishes of Georgia is the work of Brett Albanese, a senior aquatic zoologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Museum of Natural History Director Bud Freeman and Carrie Straight, a research professional with the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology. Behind the lists, photographs and distribution maps are thousands of hours spent studying records, sampling streams and inspecting fish preserved in jars.

Results include a Fishes of Georgia Atlas database that features more than 159,000 fish records from 19,028 collections, and an easy-to-use Web site that documents the state’s deep lineup of freshwater fish. A 1997 publication reported 219 native freshwater fishes for Georgia. Through the atlas project, that total now stands at 265, placing Georgia among the top three U.S. states for freshwater fish diversity.

Environmental consultants, city planners, conservationists and elementary school teachers are all expected to use the site. Species are listed by scientific and common names. Maps show where each fish lives by basin. (Drainage systems often have different fishes.) A tab allows viewers to submit new records.

There are surprises. Twenty-one species listed have not been formally described, or recognized as new species, although many such as the sicklefin redhorse are well known to ichthyologists like Freeman and Albanese. These fish illustrate what is called cryptic, or hidden, diversity.

Anglers who log in will find more bass than expected. The site lists Bartram’s bass, an undescribed species in the Savannah River basin, and splits redeye bass into a species in the Chattahoochee and Flint River basins and another in the Ocmulgee, Oconee and Ogeechee basins, research Freeman spearheaded.