Investigations of early life history and propagation techniques for freshwater mussels in the Altamaha River basin, GA
Johnson, Jennifer Audette
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North America has the highest diversity of freshwater mussels (Family: Unionidae) which is currently being threatened by extinction. To properly manage mussel populations knowledge of early life histories is necessary. I identified host fish for seven mussel species residing in the Altamaha River, GA and described glochidia morphology and valve ultrastructure. However, host fish are often unknown or unavailable so it is prudent to evaluate other options for mussel conservation and propagation. The immune system of fish is theorized to determine whether or not mussel glochidia can attach and successfully metamorphose into juveniles. I hypothesized that suppressing the immune system of non-host fish will increase metamorphosis rates. I compared metamorphosis success from fish that were treated with an immunosuppressant drug, Dexamethasone, to fish that were not treated. This approach is promising but requires additional refinement if it will become a viable approach for mussel propagation.