A new species of fish, a six-inch darter, has been identified in the Tennessee River System. The Tennessee Logperch was discovered by Tennessee Valley Authority biologist Jeff Simmons and confirmed as a new species by Yale professor Tom Near. The published findings are found in the October 2017 issue of the Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History titled “New Species of Logperch Endemic to Tennessee”.
In 2013 Simmons was researching mussels in the Big South Fork when he spotted what appeared to be a Blotchsided Logperch, a darter not seen since 1890. The discovery was confirmed, and this led to a larger study of logperches in Tennessee. This new fish is closely related to the Blotchsided. Logperch. The unique features of the Tennessee Logperch that Simmons and Near noted include small, round and flattened splotches on the sides of its body.
Simmons commented, “With new techniques in molecular study, we are starting to see a lot more diversity than we thought. Once you investigate and start getting enough data and using DNA testing, you start seeing that there are a lot of differences in fish. I think there is still a wide-open realm of discovery out there.”
The scientific name chosen for the Tennessee Logperch is percina apina. Simmons explained, “I was snorkeling one day at Hurricane Creek [in Humphreys County] with this new species and the water was so clear and clean, and the visibility was excellent, and I thought, ‘This fish needs a name that reflects these qualities.' So we gave it the name apina, which in Greek describes things that are clean or without dirt.”
The Tennessee River System is one of the most diverse aquatic wildlife systems in the world, including fish, mussels and marine life. Simmons and Near believe that the Tennessee Logperch won't be the last new fish discovered in this area.