Term of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Biology

Committee Chair

James Roberts

Committee Member 1

Steve Vives

Committee Member 2

John Harrison


Although numerous factors have led to the staggering declines in freshwater biodiversity throughout the United States and the world, habitat alteration and introduced species pose some of the greatest challenges to conservation efforts. Learning more about how these two factors lead to the decline of an endemic organism could help prevent the future loss of unique species and the premature conclusion of evolutionary trajectories. Roanoke bass (Ambloplites cavifrons) is a sport fish endemic to portions of the Roanoke, Chowan, Tar, and Neuse river basins of North Carolina and Virginia. This species has been in decline for many years, and it is believed that their continued existence is threatened by competition, and potentially hybridization and introgression with their introduced relative, the rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris). In addition to interactions with this invasive species, significant alteration of habitat is likely also a contributing factor in the decline of A. cavifrons. This study seeks to evaluate the relative contributions of these various factors to the decline of A. cavifrons. I utilized a combination of nuclear markers and mitochondrial sequence data to address the question of whether or not the two species are hybridizing in areas of syntopy, and furthermore to determine whether hybrids are fertile and able to breed back with the parental species. In addition, I identified extant populations of A. cavifrons throughout their historic range, and evaluated the genetic diversity of these populations and correlated these values with changes to the landscape in the form of alterations to watershed land use and the construction of impoundments. My results indicate large portions of the historic range of A. cavifrons no longer contain the species, and that remaining populations occur at the stream level and exist in isolation from one another. Obtaining this information allows for a better understanding of the current state of this unique species, provides information that may help managers prevent its disappearance from its native range, and affords insight into the interactions of an introduced and a native species in a landscape that has been heavily altered by human activity.

Research Data and Supplementary Material