True Facts: Mussels That Catch Fish

True Facts: Mussels That Catch Fish

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A Special thanks to Dr. Chris Barnhart.

Dr. Barnhart’s video and pictures of freshwater mussels are impossible to miss if you research them even a little bit. Dr. Barnhart let us share his incredible (and hilarious) documentation of these amazing animals, and helped us avoid silly mistakes (like mispronouncing the entire Order).

We would not have been able to make this episode without him.

Thank you to:
Dr Chris Barnhart, Missouri State University
Ryan Hagerty, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Brett Billings, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Tim Lane, Virginia Tech
Dr Tom Watters, Ohio State University
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Megan Bradley, US Fish & Wildlife Service
J. Scott Faiman
Kendell R. Loyd, Missouri State University
John McLeod, US Geological Survey
Dr Viktoria E Nikishchenko, FEB Russian Academy of Sciences
Dr. Elena Sayenko, FEB Russian Academy of Sciences
Yan-ling Cao, Shandong University
Dr. Constance Rogers-Lowery, Catawba College
Jonathan Young
Matt Hill
Todd Fobian

Selected Citations:
Barnhart, Miles & Haag, Wendell & Roston, William. (2008). Adaptations to larval parasitism in the Unionoida.
Journal of The North American Benthological Society – J N AMER BENTHOL SOC. 27. 370-394. 10.1899/07-093.1.

Cao, Yan-Ling & Liu, Xiongjun & Wu, Ruiwen & Xue, Tao-Tao & Li, Long & Zhou, Chun-Hua & Ouyang, Shan & Wu,
Xiao-Ping. (2018). Conservation of the endangered freshwater mussel Solenaia carinata (Bivalvia, Unionidae)
in China. Nature Conservation. 26. 10.3897/natureconservation.26.25334.

Fobian, Todd. (2007). Reproductive biology of the rabbitsfoot mussel (Quadrula cylindrica) (Say, 1817)
in the upper Arkansas River system.

Loyd, Kendell. (2018). Synchronization of Reproduction in Deertoe Mussel (Truncilla truncata).

McLeod, John & Jelks, Howard & Pursifull, Sandra & Johnson, Nathan. (2017). Characterizing the early life
history of an imperiled freshwater mussel ( Ptychobranchus jonesi ) with host-fish determination and
fecundity estimation. Freshwater Science. 36. 000-000. 10.1086/692096.

Nikishchenko, Viktoria & Sayenko, E. & Dyachuk, Vyacheslav. (2022). First Immunodetection of Sensory and
Nervous Systems of Parasitic Larvae (Glochidia) of Freshwater Bivalve Nodularia douglasiae.
Frontiers in Physiology. 13. 879540. 10.3389/fphys.2022.879540.

Rogers-Lowery, Constance & Dimock, Ronald. (2006). Encapsulation of Attached Ectoparasitic Glochidia
Larvae of Freshwater Mussels by Epithelial Tissue on Fins of Naive and Resistant Host Fish.
The Biological bulletin. 210. 51-63. 10.2307/4134536.

Sayenko, E. & Kazarin, V. (2022). Sample preparation of glochidial shells (Bivalvia, Unionidae) for scanning
electron microscopy. Ruthenica, Russian Malacological Journal. 32. 7-20. 10.35885/ruthenica.2022.32(1).2.

Watters, G. Thomas. “Morphology of the Conglutinate of the Kidneyshell Freshwater Mussel, Ptychobranchus
Fasciolaris.” Invertebrate Biology 118, no. 3 (1999): 289–95.

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44 Responses

  1. Ze Frank says:

    Use the link to get an exclusive NordVPN deal. To commemorate NordVPNs
    11th birthday, for a limited time only – you will also receive an additional mystery gift on
    top. ✌

  2. Corbin Brody says:

    As a freshwater mussel biologist and huge fan of Ze Frank, I gotta say, I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS ONE!!!

    • Username says:

      @Edmond Green Usually it’s connected to research grants or conservation grants, so you won’t see it on a typical job board, it has a different path. You often don’t go into the field expecting to be wealthy, but you can make a living.

    • Darcie Clements says:

      As a biologist but not that kind, I see and respect you deep. We are losing them faster than we can catalog them. It’s sad. I’m curious, what is the ratio of parasites, mutualists and free living species currently?

    • Edmond Green says:

      I’m just gonna ask…..does that pay well? I don’t see a lot of job postings for any sort of biologist let alone a freshwater mussel biologist.

    • James D says:

      Wow you’re soooo coool dude

    • Username says:

      @-.- “I need a big bag of these, a stick of butter, and a head of garlic.”

      > Among freshwater mussel species found all over the world, it is estimated that 45% of the assessed species are “near threatened” or “threatened” with extinction or are already extinct. In North America, which is home to about 300 species of freshwater mussels, more than 25 species have already gone extinct.

      Maybe don’t with the freshwater ones.

  3. Andrés Peredo says:

    I am now writing my doctoral thesis on dispersal of freshwater macroinvertebrates (but of another kind, caddisflies and so), and the thing of going upstream to not end up eventually in the sea is a thing, I can tell you.

    • David Guild says:

      ​@Andrew ClarkThey don’t need to “know” anything. The ones who only went downstream ended up in the ocean and died. Thus, any living species has some way to go upstream.

    • Andrew Clark says:

      How they know going down stream is bad, not good or favourable?

    • Rory Jester says:

      The second he made that point I had a Eureka moment. Makes soooo much sense.

    • Ladyhawk's Lair says:

      I once saw a blurb about someone who used caddisfly larvae shells to make jewelry. She would put the larvae into tanks of water with small stones of all the same color and they’d build their shells. Very pretty! When they reached their adult form, she’d turn them loose. I’m not sure how much this would disrupt the life cycle, but the jewelry was certainly unique and fascinating.

    • Absolutely Unepic says:

      I imagine you are quite popular with fly fishermen

  4. Sea Chief says:

    Fun fact about the facehugger mussels

    The fish they specialise in have reinforced skulls which allow them to survive the facehugging, if the mussel grabs a different species that isn’t suitable for their young, they will just crush their skull.

    So in a weird way, they actually have somewhat of a symbiotic relationship, as the mussels remove competing species from the environment.

  5. MichaelC Copeland Sr says:

    Thank you, Ze. Bringing smiles to people is truly noble work.

  6. Dan_Ganing_Fan says:

    Undersea reproduction be wild. And very clever. It’s incredible how simultaneously beautiful and disgusting (and horrifying) evolution can be. Great job, as always, Ze Frank.

  7. Life Aquatic says:

    Ive got to say, as a freshwater mussel biologist, I am happy to hear you correctly pronounce the genus and species properly. Nice description of the process as well. Oh, Dr Barnhart from Missouri State helped you. Makes sense now.

    • itsagundam79 says:

      @Spreckles what do you do when you inhale some pollen? Sneeze a couple times and get on with your life? Or freak out that you just inhaled barbed, spiky plant semen and gouge out your nostrils to the point of bleeding? I imagine it’s the same with the fish.

    • Spreckles says:

      So, what happens to the fish that get all the mussel larvae all up in them? I can’t imagine having their gills inundated with mussel is all that…healthy?

    • Life Aquatic says:

      @quietone748 Oh, I didnt know that. Makes him even cooler in my eyes. That said, if you dont say the scientific names frequently, its easy to butcher them, even as a biologist. Pronouncing Lasmigona decorata isnt easy, unless you say it all the time. I mispronounce plant species all the time.

    • quietone748 says:

      But ZeFrank himself is a Biologist, so it also makes sense because he is also a scientist interested in these things.

  8. Chloe Jackson says:

    As always, equal parts hilarious, horrifying and fascinating! Love it.

  9. Wankershim says:

    “The females, which can look quite female” I nearly choked. Frank’s out here saying what we’re all thinking.

  10. Amy G says:

    Simultaneously hilarious, fascinating, and a bit like watching a fish horror movie.

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