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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Juvenile Freshwater Mussels Shipped for Toxicology Study

Region 3, November 5, 2012
Gravid female washboard mussels await propagation at Genoa NFH mussel lab
Gravid female washboard mussels await propagation at Genoa NFH mussel lab - Photo Credit: n/a

For the mussel program at Genoa National Fish Hatchery the onset of fall means propagation of the washboard mussel. The washboard is the largest and longest lived mussel in North America, with individuals aged up to 100 years. This species produces viable larvae in October and generally holds them a few weeks before release. Mussel larvae require a fish host to live on for a short period of time to complete their lifecycle; most mussels have a specific host fish. The washboard larvae transform on a variety of species, but catfish seem to work the best.

Genoa NFH produce washboard for restoration efforts with our partners in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. The cooperative program involves channel catfish supplied by the state hatcheries being infested with washboard larvae collected by divers at Genoa NFH. Over 50,000 juvenile mussels were stocked this year cooperatively with the Iowa and Illinois departments of natural resources. This year we were able to use those efforts to also support research by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Columbia Environmental Resources Center in Columbia, MO contacted Genoa NFH about propagating mussel species native to the Great Lakes Region as part of a project testing 20 chemicals for toxicity to freshwater mussels. We were able to produce and ship them 33,986 juvenile washboard mussels. Approximately 2,000 individuals will be used for tests immediately while the remaining individuals will be cultured to larger sizes and used in future tests. By partnering in these efforts Genoa NFH is putting mussels out into the wild and also helping to learn how they respond to pollution. This information may be used in the future to improve water quality for everyone.

Contact Info: Nathan Eckert, 608-689-2605 ex 115, Nathan_Eckert@fws.gov