Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mystery Creature Revealed

The mystery creature was actually a freshwater mussel called the plain pocketbook, or Lampsislis cardium. What you saw was the animals mantle, which looks remarkably like a fish. Freshwater mussels have developed an interesting strategy to to reproduce. There larva are actually parasites on fish and even mudpuppies. But how do the larvae get to the fish? Well, many mussels have evolved "lures" that look like baitfish. Larger fish bite the mussel, the larvae are released, attach to the fish, and then mature. Pretty cool, huh? This is a really simple recount from my memory of what happens. I'm sure it is a much more involved process than this!

Check out this site for more information on the plain pocketbook.


  1. OK, so in bone-head terminology, (that which I understand best!) the mussel opens its shell a little, and this is what's sticking out? A packet of larvae disguised as a fish? Weird.

    And when the larvae attach to a fish, does that mean they're hanging on the outside, or are they internal when the fish swallows them?

  2. Cindy,

    I'm not sure of the exact mechanism. I'm curious as well how this all works, and when I get back to Columbus, I'll look into it some more.