Geographic variation in host fish use and larval metamorphosis for the endangered dwarf wedgemussel

Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
By: , and 



  1. Host fishes play a crucial role in survival and dispersal of freshwater mussels (Unionoida), particularly rare unionids at conservation risk. Intraspecific variation in host use is not well understood for many mussels, including the endangered dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon) in the USA.
  2. Host suitability of 33 fish species for dwarf wedgemussel glochidia (larvae) from the Delaware and Connecticut river basins was tested in laboratory experiments over 9 years. Relative suitability of three different populations of a single host fish, the tessellated darter (Etheostoma olmstedi), from locations in the Connecticut, Delaware, and Susquehanna river basins, was also tested.
  3. Connecticut River basin A. heterodon metamorphosed into juvenile mussels on tessellated darter, slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus), and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) parr. Delaware River basin mussels metamorphosed using these three species, as well as brown trout (Salmo trutta), banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanus), mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii), striped bass (Morone saxatilis), and shield darter (Percina peltata). Atlantic salmon, striped bass, and sculpins were highly effective hosts, frequently generating 5+ juveniles per fish (JPF) and metamorphosis success (MS; proportion of attaching larvae that successfully metamorphose) ≥ 0.4, and producing juveniles in repeated trials.
  4. In experiments on tessellated darters, mean JPF and MS values decreased as isolation between the mussel source (Connecticut River) and each fish source increased; mean JPF = 10.45, 6.85, 4.14, and mean MS = 0.50, 0.41, and 0.34 in Connecticut, Delaware, and Susquehanna river darters, respectively. Host suitability of individual darters was highly variable (JPF = 2–11; MS = 0.20–1.0).
  5. The results show that mussel–host fish compatibility in A. heterodon differs among Atlantic coastal rivers, and suggest that hosts including anadromous Atlantic salmon and striped bass may help sustain A. heterodon in parts of its range. Continued examination of host use variation, migratory host roles, and mussel–fish interactions in the wild is critical in conservation of A. heterodon and other vulnerable mussel species.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geographic variation in host fish use and larval metamorphosis for the endangered dwarf wedgemussel
Series title Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
DOI 10.1002/aqc.2782
Volume 27
Issue 5
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 909
Last page 918
Country United States
Other Geospatial Connecticut River basin, Delaware River basin
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