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Joe Quattro
Joe Quattro, an associate professor of biological sciences and marine science, conducts research on the genetics of marine species, particularly fishes and mollusks.

New book takes comprehensive look at state's fish

Quattro, whose research focuses on using genetics to define fish population units, was most surprised by the number of non-native species in South Carolina’s rivers and lakes.

"Fifteen percent of the Santee River’s 110 species were introduced, and across the state 12 to 18 percent of fish species in any given habitat are introduced species,” he said. “I think it’s a reflection of how many dams we have and the corresponding amount of surface water. That attracts fishermen, and they’re the ones who typically introduce new species to a body of water.”

Overall, South Carolina has 28 families of fish.

In terms of species diversity, the Savannah River is tops with 113 species; the Edisto River has the fewest species with 87. Overall, the state has 28 families of fish including a few of the darter and minnow variety that might be familiar only to naturalists and the most diehard fishing enthusiasts.

While some species, such as striped bass, are being protected from overfishing, there have been no documented fish extinctions in South Carolina, Quattro said.

Fish species diversity in the United States is highest in the Mississippi River and second highest in the Southeast, Quattro said.

“We have all kinds of habitat in this state, from the Pee Dee to the Piedmont and the Lowcountry watersheds,” he said.

Quattro, who used to flyfish when he had more time, has fond memories of skipping school in his youth to fish with his dad. Those trips might have led the young Quattro to become a fish geneticist.

Freshwater Fishes in South Carolina is available through the University Press and in many bookstores.

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Posted: 07/07/09 @ 4:00 PM | Updated: 11/09/09 @ 1:56 PM | Permalink

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