Are you surprised that some mussels thrive in freshwater, in our rivers and streams here in Ohio? Do you know that freshwater mussels are distinct from their saltwater cousins?
This is a Freshwater Mussel.
There are, at least in Ohio, some important laws against trying to eat (or pick up) any of these mussels. It is not worth it, so don’t try.
If you’re curious, you can see videos of mantle flapping and further explanation of why the mussels show this behavior at the Columbus Zoo Freshwater Conservation and Research Center webpage. Unlike saltwater mussels, fertilization for freshwater mussels takes place internally. Sperm gets released into the water, and is taken in to the body of the female who then parasitizes a fish in a variety of ways.
Another quality that is important regarding potential consumption is that many freshwater mussels live a very long time before reaching “edible” size. That means that they have been filter feeding in a river day-in, day-out, and this is a recipe for dangerous bio-accumulation if there ever was one.
This is a Saltwater Mussel
The nice thing about saltwater mussels is that they reach edible size in about a year and a half, so they will have accumulated fewer, potentially harmful substances from the environment.
Saltwater mussels reproduce externally. Fertilization takes place in the water outside the body of the organism and results in tiny larval mussels that float around for a while until the lucky ones find a nice solid place to settle down and stretch out some byssal threads. There they are anchored for life.
This is a Pistachio
Both saltwater and freshwater mussels are aquatic bivalve mollusks who filter food out of the water column. Pistachios are terrestrial plants.
Coming up: The Phylogenetic Distinction
About The Author: Sara Klips is the Mussel Fairy. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in zoology. She secretly designed the logo for the department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology.