Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mussel Mania - Part 1

I never really thought about freshwater mussels until a few years back. Now I think about them all the time. Especially since I will soon be conducting a small pilot project studying them in Merrill Creek. More on that later. They are fascinating creatures. Even though they are one of the most endangered groups of animals on Earth, very little is known about the life history and habitat needs of many species.
We do know that freshwater mussels are dependent upon fish. After mussel larvae, called glochidia, are released from the female into the water, they have a very short time to find a host fish. If they find one, they will clamp onto its fins or gills, form a cyst around itself, and remain there for days or even months. During this time, the fish may swim many miles, thus helping to disperse mussel populations. Anyway, the chances of glochidia finding a suitable host, (yes, some mussel species are dependent upon only certain species of fish), landing in a suitable habitat after detaching, and reaching adulthood can be as high as 1 in 100,000,000. All I can say is WOW. Stay tuned for more interesting facts about freshwater mussels. If this has piqued your interest, go to the Pacific Northwest Native Freshwater Mussel Workgroup. There you can read a few documents or download the 2nd edition of the Field Guide to the Freshwater Mussels of the Pacific Northwest. And if you are ever wandering around in a creek and find any mussels, I’ll bet they would love to know.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece! Can't wait for "More on that later."