Sunday, February 3, 2013

Fish Bowl Sunday!

One of the reasons we work in the southeastern United States is because of the amazing aquatic biodiversity here—lots of crayfish, mussels, fish, turtles, and salamanders to study!  For many nature nuts like us, this web of life is awesome simply because it exists.  Sometimes we give other reasons on why biodiversity matters, though.  This weekend, we have the perfect chance for one of our favorite analogies.

Biodiversity matters because the Big Game on Sunday would be pretty boring if all the players on the field were in the same position.  Who would want to watch a bunch of quarterbacks throw balls when no one was there to catch them?  What’s the fun of a touchdown when you didn’t have to race past the cornerback and safety?  And what’s the point of a pass rush when there is no one passing?  Our rivers are just the same—we need a lot of different fishes swimming around to keep things interesting!

Because we are fish AND sports nerds, we decided to create our fantasy Fish Bowl Sunday for you… so without further ado, here are the starting line-ups!  Representing the American Fishes Conference is Benthic Bait, playing the Fantastic Fins from the National Fishes Conference.  The Benthic Bait are coached by the Prickly Sculpin, while the Fantastic Fins are led by the Redface Topminnow.

Prickly Sculpin
The game starts with the Spangled Darter singing the national anthem.  Officiating for this game are our refs, a Striped Bass, Banded Pygmy Sunfish, Striped Shiner, and Striped Mullet.  A Chainback Darter and a Chain Pickerel will be keeping track of the first down markers. 

Chainback Darter.  Photo by Todd Crail.
For the Benthic Bait, a Flier kicks off with the Fantastic Fins receiving.  The offensive line for the Fantastic Fins is made up of Shield and Guardian Darters, protecting their quarterback, the Pretty Shiner.  Split wide and blazing down the field are Flame Chubs as wide receivers.  The Southern Studfish receives short passes as the tight end.  When it’s time for the running game, an American Eel slips through the gaps being cleared for him by the Yellow Bullhead.  They’re hoping not to have to use their field goal kicker, the Crown Darter, who only really earns his name if he makes that last-second game-winning kick.

American Eels.
On the defense for the Benthic Bait we have the Robust Redhorse in the middle of the line, flanked by two Bull Trout.  Pressuring the Pretty Shiner are the Rush Darters, eager to make a sack.  Following every move of the Flame Chubs are the cornerbacks, the Mirror Shiners.  Ready to stop the run or pass are the linebackers, Dirty and Warrior Darters, with our safeties, the Bigeye and Slender Chubs.  Due to injuries from this season, the Wounded Darter, Cutlip Minnow, and Bleeding Shiner will be sitting this game out.

Bleeding Shiner.  Photo by Lance Merry.
Of course, no football game is complete without an audience (who had to pay a lot of Dollar Sunfishes to get in).  The stands are packed with fins—oops, we mean fans!  We see a lot of Fantail Darters out there, as well as some really enthusiastic supporters who came out in color...  Tennessee Shiners, Saffron Shiners, and Warpaint Shiners.

Spring in Tennessee!  Photo by Lance Merry.
Hopefully, unlike a lot of championship games, this one will be close to the end, keeping those fans sitting on Pinfish and Needlefish!

Post co-authored by Bernie Kuhajda and Anna George.