By Brynn Walling, USFWS
Tag, you’re it!
That’s the approach we’re taking with freshwater mussels in North Carolina.
Check out this freshwater mussel! (Photo: USFWS)
So far this tag team method has helped advance the recovery of two federally endangered species -- the Appalachian elktoe and Tar River spinymussel.
Biologists with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine are rescuing young Tar River spinymussels from drying streams and transporting them to the Commission’s Conservation Aquaculture Center at the Marion fish hatchery.
Hands-on care is given to these mussels and once they are ready to spawn they are taken to laboratories for even more care.
Spawning occurs when male and female mussels release their sperm and eggs into the water. The eggs are immediately fertilized. The eggs then become larvae and in approximately 3 weeks will start developing their shell.
As the shell is developing, the larvae will attach themselves to a solid structure for support. Once the offspring are strong enough to support themselves, they are transferred back to the Marion fish hatchery.
Mussels are sensitive to water quality changes. As the water quality decreases, so too do the number of mussels.
There are a variety of contributing factors to the decline of mussels such as: pollution from wastewater discharges, runoff from poorly managed farms, cleared sites, and much more.
Learn more about the hands-on conservation efforts for mussels in North Carolina.
(Note: We're also working on helping mussels in Virginia, which we told you about earlier this year.)
Each week, throughout this ruby anniversary year of the Endangered Species Act, we’ll highlight stories of conservation success in every state across the country. Stay tuned!