Scientists track St. Croix River catfish to understand life cycle of endangered mussels

Studying how host fish interact with winged mapleleaf mussel should help guide reintroduction efforts.




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From the National Park Service Great Lakes Research and Education Center:

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Have you ever heard of “malacology”? Malacologists are scientists who study mollusks!

Mark Hove, from the University of Minnesota, is a malcologist working with Michelle Bartsch and Diane Waller, Research Biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, to study freshwater mussels and their hosts within the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway. Microscopic mussel larvae are known as glochidia.

As part of the mussel life cycle, glochidia must spend a period of time as a parasite on specific fish species (host fish). In 2017, Bartsch, Waller and Hove worked with various state and federal agencies to study the brooding period of the winged mapleleaf, a federally endangered freshwater mussel, and the movement of their host fish (channel catfish) in the St. Croix River. The research team also included Brent Knights and Jon Vallazza of USGS, and Byron Karns of the National Park Service.

The team used acoustic telemetry to passively track channel catfish captured in the vicinity of winged mapleleaf beds just prior to glochida release.

Understanding the seasonal movements and habitat use of channel catfish in relation to glochida release by winged mapleleaf will be integral to the identification of suitable reintroduction sites and help identify best management practices for native mussel conservation!


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Scientists track St. Croix River catfish to understand life cycle of endangered mussels