Fascinating Freshwater Mussels

Fascinating Freshwater Mussels

November Indoor Meeting:  Non-raptor bird species need our help too and Fascinating Freshwater Mussels.

At the last indoor meeting of 2017, we learned that sick or injured songbirds and waterfowl will soon benefit from a local non-raptor species rehabilitation clinic being constructed by Erica DiMuzio. To offer our support, Mike Kent, on behalf of LWI, presented Erica with a donation of $1,000.00. I was really inspired by Erica’s passion for helping wildlife in such a direct way. Best of luck with your new centre, Erica!

Mike Kent presented donation to Erica DiMuzio

LWI wrapped up its 2017 line-up of indoor presentations with guest speaker, Erin Carroll, Manager of Biology at the St. Clair Regional Conservation Authority (SRCA). Having attended the Sydenham Nature Reserve Celebration in September, where Erin gave a hands-on, river-side presentation about Freshwater Mussels, I knew a more in-depth indoor presentation on the same topic would be interesting.

Larry Cornelis introduced the guest speaker Erin Carroll

Who knew that experts come from all over the world to Lambton County to study mussels? With 34 species of freshwater mussel, no other river in Canada beats our very own Sydenham in mussel diversity. It’s pretty amazing that we at LWI helped play a role to conserve part of it!

To say these creatures have a unique life-history would be an understatement. Erin showed a video where adult freshwater mussels ‘lure’ their host fish with parts of their soft, fleshy body that look convincingly like prey. For those of you who missed the indoor meeting, I highly recommend searching ‘Freshwater Mussel Lures’ on YouTube so you can see this for yourself.

Erin also discussed the importance of mussels in the Sydenham River, each of them filtering an amazing ~1 litre of water per hour. She and colleagues at the SRCA conduct surveys of the Sydenham, where mussels and other indicator species also help them to paint a picture of our river’s health.

While, our native mussel populations do face threats such as increases in water salinity (much of which is from road salt), invasive species such as the zebra mussel, and water pollution; the news isn’t all bad in the Sydenham. Erin shared that in recent surveys by the SRCA, a new species record for this area was made, and one species not seen her in 50 years was observed.

After Erin’s talk, I was definitely excited to get out and spot some freshwater mussels. If you were too, there’s a free APP that was developed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Toronto Zoo called ‘Clam Counter’ that helps you identify your neat finds in the field, right from your phone. You can also report your sightings to help the organizations working to protect Canada’s freshwater mussels.

Erin Carroll with Mike Kent

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