Our First Big Propagation Effort for Salamander Mussels
BY JORGE BUENING, GENOA NFH
If you have been following these newsletter articles for any length of time, you have had it engrained into you that freshwater mussels require a fish host to complete their lifecycles. That fact holds true in most instances, one of the exceptions is the salamander mussel, Simpsonaias ambigua. This mussel deviates from the norm by using an amphibian as a host, to be more specific, mudpuppies. One other anomaly sets this mussel apart from other freshwater bi-valves, the niche that it exploits in water-ways. Generally freshwater mussels are found spread out in the substrate, salamander mussels are found in tight crevices along rocky areas. Generally the places that mudpuppies like to hide, makes sense, right?
The Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) is working this year toward producing salamander mussels for the Chippewa River. With funding from the Xcel Energy Natural Resources Fund we collected gravid female salamander mussels last fall. This spring we infested 102 mudpuppies with salamander mussel glochidia. The mudpuppies were then moved to one of our cage locations and placed in ten culture cages to allow the juvenile mussels to drop-off and develop throughout the summer. We will return in the fall to determine if any of the juvenile mussels survived all of the high water that has hit the region this spring. Our lab estimates say that the effort should have produced over 50,000 juveniles. A very good effort for our first attempt at large scale production for this species. Any sub-adult mussels that are recovered will be stocked in the Chippewa River to bolster the existing population.
This project is an example that corporate entities, state agencies and the federal government can work together to enhance our biological communities and preserve our natural resources.