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Rutgers marine researchers and New Jersey fishermen are piecing together the details of the strange, gender-bending sex lives of black sea bass â a study that could improve understanding of the bass population and help the beleaguered recreational fishing industry.
Scientists have long known black sea bass are âprotogynous hermaphrodites,â a species in which fish that begin life as females can switch gender to male. But the details of how and why that happens are not completely understood.
Now, thereâs thinking the change is triggered when the number of males in a local population declines. Not enough guys? Some black sea bass ladies make the switch.
âIt sounds crazy, right? But from an evolutionary perspective, itâs a perfect way to keep balance in a population,â said Olaf Jensen, an assistant professor with Rutgersâ Department of Marine and Coastal Science leading the project. âIf itâs operating out in nature, maybe we donât have to worry so much about fishing pressure removing the big males and skewing the sex ratio.â