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Lampsilis cariosa

What do they look like?

The yellow lampmussel is an egg-shaped mussel with a rounded edge. Individuals average 75 mm in length, but the largest individuals may grow to 130 mm and have a shell up to 4.0 mm thick. Adult male mussels appear more elongated than females. Yellow lampmussels have two shells (called valves) that connect at the umbo. The umbo is the oldest part of the mussel, and is thick and swollen. The outermost layer of the shell is glossy yellow in color. As mussels get older, the shiny yellow color gets darker. Some yellow lampmussels have thin green rays on the back angle of the shell. This is one way to distinguish yellow lampmussels from other related mussel species. Other freshwater mussels, such as Lampsilis ovata or Leptodea ochracea, have green rays all across their shells.

On the inside of the shell, the inner surface, called the nacre, is glossy white or bluish-white in color. The mussel has teeth that keep the two shells lined up. Inside the shell is soft tissue called mantle tissue. This tissue is smooth, gray, and has dark streaks or dots. Female yellow lampmussels have a large mantle, and it is often displayed outside of the shells. The female mantle has dark markings and patterns that look like eyes. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; American Museum of Natural History, 2013; "Mussel glossary", 2006; Jirka and Strayer, 1997; The University of Georgia Museum of Natural History, 2008; "Freshwater mussels of the upper Mississippi River system", 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Range length
    130 (high) mm
    5.12 (high) in
  • Average length
    100 mm
    3.94 in

Where do they live?

Lampsilis cariosa, also known as the yellow lampmussel, is a freshwater mussel native to eastern North America. It is found as far south as Georgia in the United States, and as far north to Nova Scotia in Canada. (Kelly and Rhymer, 2005; Sabine, et al., 2004)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Yellow lampmussels are mostly found in larger streams and rivers with medium to fast water flow. They live mostly buried within the soil and dirt at the bottom of the water, and are more likely to live in sandy, gravel soils, often downstream from large rocks and boulders. Though less common, yellow lampmussels have also been found in lakes. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; American Museum of Natural History, 2013; Jirka and Strayer, 1997; Sabine, et al., 2004; Strayer, 1993)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • benthic
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

How do they grow?

Yellow lampmussels have a complex life cycle. Fertilized eggs develop inside of a female, and develop into larvae called glochidia. Glochidia look like small versions of the adult mussels, and are 0.3 mm or smaller in length. Glochidia are parasitic, and need to attach to a fish to develop further, either a white perch (Morone americana) or a yellow perch (Perca flavescens). When a female is brushed by a fish, she releases the glochidia, and the glochidia attach to a host fish by clamping their two shells together onto the fish's tissue. The glochidia eat the tissue. In response to the damage, the tissue of the fish starts to grow around the glochidia, eventually covering the larvae with tissue, so they are embedded into the fish. Then the glochidia undergo metamorphosis, and become juveniles. At the end of this period, the juveniles remove themselves from the fish tissue, and fall to the bottom of the river or stream, and bury themselves into the sediment. They then develop into adults. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; Arey, 1932; Kelly and Rhymer, 2005; Williams, et al., 2008)

How do they reproduce?

The yellow lampmussel reproduces through sexual reproduction. During the summer months, yellow lampmussel males release their sperm into the water. The sperm enters the female through a tube called a siphon, and fertilizes her eggs. Water temperature plays a role in reproduction; if the water is too cold, the mussels will not reproduce. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; The University of Georgia Museum of Natural History, 2008; "Freshwater mussels of the upper Mississippi River system", 2006)

After fertilization, the eggs develop within a pouch in the female mussel. They hatch into larvae, called glochidia. The glochidia are parasitic, and need to attach to a fish (either white perch or yellow perch) to develop into adults. In order to make sure the larvae have a fish to attach to, the females use their mantle flap to attract fish. The mantle flap has markings on it that look like an eye. To larger fish, this "eye" looks like a small fish that they might eat. When the fish moves in to investigate, they brush the mantle flap, and the female mussel releases the glochidia. The glochidia attach to the fish's gills or fin tissue. They then develop into adults, and leave the fish. Mussels are able to mate between 3 and 5 years of age. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; The University of Georgia Museum of Natural History, 2008; Williams, et al., 2008)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding takes place in the summer.
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 5 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 to 5 years

Fertilized eggs develop inside the female yellow lampmussel from summer until the following spring. Once they have developed, she then releases the larvae into the water. After this release, there is no more parental care. (The University of Georgia Museum of Natural History, 2008)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

In the Sydney River in Nova Scotia, Canada, the average lifespan is recorded as 7.8 years of age. Information for the lifespan for yellow lampmussels is not recorded for the rest of its range, but it is likely similar. The longest known lifespan for the yellow lampmussel is 17 years. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; American Museum of Natural History, 2013)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    17 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    7.8 years

How do they behave?

Freshwater mussels have a large, muscular organ called a foot that they use to burrow and anchor into the substrate at the bottom of their river or stream. They can also use the foot to move themselves through the sediment. For most of their lives, only the end of yellow lampmussels sticks out of the sediment, and they stay mostly in the same place in the sediment. While adults stay in the same spot, larvae get the chance to find new locations when they are released into the water and become parasites on fish. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; Williams, et al., 2008)

How do they communicate with each other?

Mussels use their muscular foot to move through the sediment at the bottom of their river or stream, or to anchor in place. If something comes into physical contact with the foot, the mussel will pull the foot into their shell and clamp shut. They will also clamp shut if they get pulled out of the sediment, as the foot can sense its physical surroundings. Yellow lampmussel females also use physical contact to determine when they should release their larvae into the water. Females extend their inner lining, called the mantle, which has markings on it that resemble an eye. This is called a "lure", because to a large fish, it looks like a small fish or other creature that it will want to eat. When a fish swims by, investigating the "eye", and brushes against the female, the female will release her larvae, so that the larvae can attach to the fish. Freshwater mussels can also detect shadows. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; Bruenderman, et al., 2002)

  • Other Communication Modes
  • mimicry

What do they eat?

Yellow lampmussels eat small particles of algae, decaying organic matter, plankton, and fungus out of the water. Water goes in a tube called the incurrent siphon, and washes over the gills. Mussels are filter feeders, and use their gills to filter food particles and oxygen out of the water. Waste, called pseudofeces, leaves the mussel through another tube called the excurrent siphon. The mussel's pseudofeces are actually a food source for other freshwater organisms. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; Bruenderman, et al., 2002; Williams, et al., 2008)

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Larvae and adult yellow lampmussels have different predators. Juveniles and larvae are eaten by ducks, herons, fish, and other invertebrates, while adult mussels are preyed on by muskrats, otters, and raccoons. Muskrats are a predator of yellow lampmussels throughout their entire geographic range, and can threaten the numbers of a population. To defend themselves, yellow lampmussels draw their foot inside their shell when they are removed from the soil at the bottom of the river, and clamp shut. Their thick shell makes it very difficult for predators to get to the soft, unprotected parts inside. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; Bruenderman, et al., 2002; Kurth, 2007; Sabine, et al., 2004)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Because yellow lampmussels, like other freshwater mussels, are filter feeders, they filter toxins and other particles out of the water, and improve the water quality for themselves and other organisms. Additionally, the feces they produce are eaten by other freshwater organisms. The yellow lampmussel is eaten by a variety of other animals, including fish, water fowl, and medium sized mammals such as otters and muskrats. The larval stage (glochidia) of Lampsilis cariosa is parasitic, and must attach to a host fish, either the white perch (Morone americana) or the yellow perch (Perca flavescens). The glochidia feed on the tissue of the fish, and cannot mature without the fish. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; Kelly and Rhymer, 2005)

Species (or larger taxonomic groups) used as hosts by this species

Do they cause problems?

There are no known negative effects of the yellow lampmussel on humans.

How do they interact with us?

In the past, freshwater mussels were eaten by Native Americans. From the mid-to-late-1800s, mussels were collected for their pearls or for their shells, which could be used to make buttons. Since freshwater mussels such as yellow lampmussels are sensitive to changes in the environment, researchers can study the mussels to determine if there is anything wrong with the water or environment that they live in. (Mock, et al., 2004; Williams, et al., 2008)

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • research and education

Are they endangered?

Yellow lampmussels are an endangered species. Their populations are threatened by the destruction of their habitat, chemicals in the water, predation, and competition for resources with invasive species. Two important invasive species are the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) and the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea). Both of these species can gather in large numbers, and eat the food and use resources that yellow lampmussels would normally use, causing many yellow lampmussels to die off. Additionally, because yellow lampmussels remain in one spot for much of their lives, if their habitat becomes contaminated with chemicals or has other problems, they cannot move far enough to escape to better conditions. They are also vulnerable because part of their life cycle depends on the presence of only two species of perch. If the parasitic larvae (glochidia) cannot attach to one of these fish, then they will not develop to adults.

There are a variety of ways for conservation efforts to prevent the extinction of yellow lampmussels. Conservation can be focused on protecting the perch species, and making sure that there are perch available for the glochidia to attach to. Groups have also tried to move the mussels to better habitats, but many mussels do not survive the move. To save this species, fishing of these perch species should be decreased, and removing the mussels should also stop. Altering or destroying their habitat also needs to stop, and there also needs to be regulation of harmful chemicals or other substances that could end up in the water. ("Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed", 2009; Bogan, 1996; Kurth, 2007; Williams, et al., 1993)

Contributors

Yesenia M Werner (author), The College of New Jersey, Keith Pecor (editor), The College of New Jersey, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

References

United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006. "Freshwater mussels of the upper Mississippi River system" (On-line). Accessed October 01, 2013 at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/mussel/glossary.html.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Management Plan for the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in Canada - Proposed. En3-5/6-2009E. Ottawa: Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2009. Accessed December 04, 2013 at http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/359075/publication.html.

Illinois State Museum. 2006. "Mussel glossary" (On-line). Accessed October 01, 2013 at http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismdepts/zoology/mussels/mussel_glossary.html.

American Museum of Natural History, 2013. "Lampsilis cariosa species summary" (On-line). Genus Lampsilis. Accessed December 08, 2013 at http://www.amnh.org/our-research/center-for-biodiversity-conservation/research/species-based-research/invertebrate-conservation/freshwater-mussels/mussel-species/genus-lampsilis.

Arey, L. 1932. The formation and structure of the glochidial cyst. Biological Bulletin, 62.2: 212-221.

Bogan, A. 1996. "Lampsilis cariosa" (On-line). Accessed October 01, 2013 at www.iucnredlist.org.

Bruenderman, S., J. Sternburg, C. Barnhart. 2002. "Missouri’s Freshwater Mussels" (On-line pdf). Accessed December 04, 2013 at http://molluskconservation.org/Library/Maps/pdfs/Missouri-freshwater.pdf.

Jirka, K., D. Strayer. 1997. "The Pearly Mussels of New York State" (On-line pdf). Accessed December 04, 2013 at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/pubsforsale/detail.cfm?pubID=5222.

Kelly, M., J. Rhymer. 2005. Population genetic structure of a rare unionid (Lampsilis cariosa) in a recently glaciated landscape. Conservation Genetics, 6: 789-802.

Kurth, J. 2007. Methods for the Translocation of the Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) and the Tidewater Mucket (Leptodea ochracea) in the Fort Halifax Dam Impoundment of the Sebasticok River, Maine. Orono: University of Maine. Accessed December 04, 2013 at http://www.library.umaine.edu/theses/theses.asp?Cmd=abstract&ID=EES2007-002.

Mock, J., J. Brim-Box, M. Miller, M. Downing, W. Hoeh. 2004. Genetic diversity and divergence among freshwater mussel (Anodonta) populations in the Bonneville Basin of Utah. Molecular Ecology, 13: 1085-1098.

Sabine, D., S. Makepeace, D. McAlpine. 2004. The yellow lamp mussel (Lampsilis cariosa) in New Brunswick: a population of significant conservation value. Northeastern Naturalist, 11/4: 407-420.

Strayer, D. 1993. Macrohabitats of freshwater mussels (Bivalvia:Unionacea) in streams of the Northern Atlantic Slope. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 12.3: 236-246.

The University of Georgia Museum of Natural History, 2008. "Yellow lampmussel: Lampsilis cariosa" (On-line). Accessed October 01, 2013 at http://naturalhistory.uga.edu/~GMNH/gawildlife/index.php?page=speciespages/ai_species_page&key=lcariosa.

Williams, J., A. Bogan, J. Garner, E. Wilson. 2008. Freshwater Mussels of Alabama and the Mobile Basin in Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Alabama: University of Alabama Press.

Williams, J., M. Warren, Jr., K. Cummings, J. Harris, R. Neves. 1993. Conservation status of freshwater mussels of the United States and Canada. Fisheries, 18.9: 6-22.

 
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Werner, Y. 2014. "Lampsilis cariosa" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 22, 2019 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Lampsilis_cariosa/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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