Characterizing the early life history of an imperiled freshwater mussel (Ptychobranchus jonesi) with host-fish determination and fecundity estimation

Freshwater Science
By: , and 



Conservation of imperiled species is frequently challenged by insufficient knowledge of life history and environmental factors that affect various life stages. The larvae (glochidia) of most freshwater mussels in the family Unionidae are obligate ectoparasites of fishes. We described the early life history of the federally endangered Southern Kidneyshell Ptychobranchus jonesi and compared methods for estimating fecundity and conducting host trials on this conglutinate-producing mussel species. Glochidial inoculation baths and direct feeding of conglutinates to Percina nigrofasciata, Etheostoma edwini, and Etheostoma fusiforme resulted in successful metamorphosis to the juvenile life stage. Ptychobranchus jonesi glochidia did not metamorphose on 25 other species of fishes tested representing 11 families. Three juveniles were recovered from Gambusia holbrooki resulting in a metamorphosis rate <1%. We characterize P. jonesi as a host-fish specialist that fractionally releases conglutinates from late January to early June. Intact P. jonesi conglutinates resemble simuliid fly larvae attached to an egg-like structure, but most conglutinates were released as segments representing separate egg or larva mimics. Viability of glochidia encased within a conglutinate was >90% for ≥5 d. Feeding conglutinates directly to fishes allowed us to estimate seminatural infestation rates and calculate average numbers of juveniles produced per conglutinate, unlike the traditional approach of infesting fish hosts in an inoculation bath. Regressions based on the physical dimensions of each conglutinate or conglutinate segment were the most practical method used to estimate fecundity. Species distribution information, early life-history description, and methods developed for determining fecundity and conducting host trials may assist in the conservation of P. jonesi during recovery options that include captive propagation, augmentation, and reestablishment.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Characterizing the early life history of an imperiled freshwater mussel (Ptychobranchus jonesi) with host-fish determination and fecundity estimation
Series title Freshwater Science
DOI 10.1086/692096
Volume 36
Issue 2
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher The University of Chicago Press
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 13 p.
First page 338
Last page 350
Country United States
State Alabama, Florida
Other Geospatial Choctawhatchee river drainage, Escambia river drainage, Yellow river drainage
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