Freshwater Mussel Monitoring Program
Eastern elliptio is one of the most common freshwater mussel species found in Atlantic coast rivers but is surprisingly rare in the Susquehanna River watershed. Based on evidence from archealogical sites, eastern elliptio were once abundant in the Susquehanna River. Restored beds of mussels in the Susquehanna River could filter millions of gallons of water each day processing nutrients and cleaning up the water for fish and people.
Recent surveys indicate that eastern elliptio populations in the Susquehanna River may be declining due to the absence of successful reproduction. Freshwater mussels are dependent on a host fish during the larval stage of development. American eels can act as an intermediate host for eastern elliptio larvae. Decreased recruitment of eastern elliptio could be linked to the lack of efficient eel passage over 4 dams in the Susquehanna River.
In cooperation with researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, Maryland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office will conduct a combination of laboratory and field work to determine the transformation rate of eastern elliptio larvae on American eels and collect baseline data on the abundance and age distribution of eastern elliptio in the Susquehanna River watershed.
Research will be conducted to determine if older American eel life stages and other species including American shad, hickory shad, blueback herring, and alewife are suitable hosts for eastern elliptio. Surveys will also be conducted to assess the current population status of eastern elliptio in the Susquehanna River.
In addition, biologists will work with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and other agencies to monitor rare freshwater mussel species such as the brook floater and green floater in the mid-Atlantic region.