Freshwater Mussels are a group of animals so inconspicuous they are often mistaken for rocks. Laying on the bottom of lakes, rivers, and creeks, they rarely move and eat by filtering water for microscopic food particles.
Freshwater Mussels are important to the environment. Many kinds of animals eat mussels, including otters, raccoons, herons, and egrets. Mussels filter water for food. When they filter the water they are also purifying the water. Mussels are usually found in groups called beds. Beds of mussels vary in size from less than a square foot to acres. Mussels beds can be hard acting like cobblestone on the lake, river, or stream bottom which supports other species of fish, aquatic insects and worms.
Did you know, in the Midwest more than half of the 78 known species of mussels are classified as endangered by the government?
Fun Fact, about 70% of mussels in North America are extinct or Imperiled.
In the early 1900s, there used to be an industry make buttons out of mussels shells along the Mississippi River and other rivers and lakes.
In the '60s the Japanese pearl market started to import mussels from the Mississippi River to make pearls more efficient.
Mussels have a lifespan that can span several decades or potentially centuries.
The main invasive species that is hurting the native mussels are the Zebra mussels.
Native mussels reproduce in a unique way where the mother mussels release her eggs into a fish by luring it with a lure made up of itself and then the eggs latch on to the gills of the fish and suck nutrients from the blood of the fish. When the fishes autoimmune system rejects the new baby mussels it forces them to detach and they land on the floor if the river or lake and start to mature. The process is not known to hurt the fish. Mussels are one of the only animals known to do this.
They are the second most endangered species in Minnesota.
Mussels move around using a foot.
They are often mistaken for a rock in the water.