Historicallywas found in the Ohio River drainage and the Detroit River, however its range has been greatly reduced to one population in Indiana.
In Michigan the white catspaw was historically found in the Detroit River and Lake Erie. One specimen was collected from the Raisin River in Monroe County. This species has not been collected in Michigan waters since the 1930s. (Burch, 1975; Carman, 2001)
Specific habitat requirements are unknown since this species is rare. However, populations recently found were in high gradient streams in riffles with gravel. In Michigan this species was historically found in the Detroit River and Lake Erie. (Carman, 2001; van der Schalie, 1938)
- Habitat Regions
- Aquatic Biomes
- rivers and streams
The catspaw is up to 5.1 cm (2 inches) long. Females are rectangular or quadrate while males are oval and elongate. The posterior ridge has a wide sulcus or depression between double ridges in males. The ridge is sharp and narrow in females. The shell is usually fairly solid and inflated. The anterior end is rounded, the posterior end bluntly pointed in males. Females have a posterior margin that is extended, truncated, with ribs and a medial notch. The dorsal margin is short and straight and the ventral margin is broadly curved in males and gently curved in females.
Umbos are full and even with the hinge line. Beak sculpture is double looped.
The periostracum (outer shell layer) is smooth, yellow to yellow-tan with fine green rays.
On the inner shell, the left valve has two pseudocardinal teeth, which are wide, elevated and serrated. The two lateral teeth are short and straight to slightly curved, and rough. The right valve has one wide, elevated and serrated pseudocardinal tooth.
The beak cavity is shallow. Although the nacre is white to purple it is iridescent at the posterior end. Michigan specimens have only had a white nacre.
In Michigan, this species could be confused with the northern riffleshell. The northern riffleshell is generally smaller and females lack serrations at the edge of the posterior end of the shell. (Carman, 2001; Cummings and Mayer, 1992; Oesch, 1984; Watters, 1995)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes shaped differently
- Range length
- 5.1 (high) cm
- 2.01 (high) in
Fertilized eggs are brooded in the marsupia (water tubes) up to 11 months, where they develop into larvae, called glochidia. The glochidia are then released into the water where they must attach to the gill filaments and/or general body surface of the host fish. After attachment, epithelial tissue from the host fish grows over and encapsulates a glochidium, usually within a few hours. The glochidia then metamorphoses into a juvenile mussel within a few days or weeks. After metamorphosis, the juvenile is sloughed off as a free-living organism. Juveniles are found in the substrate where they develop into adults. (Arey, 1921; Lefevre and Curtis, 1910)
- Development - Life Cycle
Age to sexual maturity for this species is unknown. Unionids are gonochoristic (sexes are separate) and viviparous. The glochidia, which are the larval stage of the mussels, are released live from the female after they are fully developed.
In general, gametogenesis in unionids is initiated by increasing water temperatures. The general life cycle of a unionid, includes open fertilization. Males release sperm into the water, which is taken in by the females through their respiratory current. The eggs are internally fertilized in the suprabranchial chambers, then pass into water tubes of the gills, where they develop into glochidia. (Lefevre and Curtis, 1912; Watters, 1995)
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval
- The catspaw mussel breeds once in the warmer months of the year.
- Average gestation period
- 10 months
Females brood fertilized eggs in their marsupial pouch. The fertilized eggs develop into glochidia. There is no parental investment after the female releases the glochidia.
- Parental Investment
Based on growth rings on specimens, the white catspaw probably lives up to 15 years. (Carman, 2001)
- Typical lifespan
- 15 (high) years
- Typical lifespan
Mussels in general are rather sedentary, although they may move in response to changing water levels and conditions. Although not thoroughly documented, the mussels may vertically migrate to release glochidia and spawn. Often they are found buried under the substrate. (Oesch, 1984)
Communication and Perception
The middle lobe of the mantle edge has most of a bivalve's sensory organs. Paired statocysts, which are fluid filled chambers with a solid granule or pellet (a statolity) are in the mussel's foot. The statocysts help the mussel with georeception, or orientation.
Mussels are heterothermic, and therefore are sensitive and responsive to temperature.
Unionids in general may have some form of chemical reception to recognize fish hosts. Mantle flaps in the lampsilines are modified to attract potential fish hosts. How the spike attracts its fish host is unknown.
- Communication Channels
In general, unionids are filter feeders. The mussels use cilia to pump water into the incurrent siphon where food is caught in a mucus lining in the demibranchs. Particles are sorted by the labial palps and then directed to the mouth. Mussels have been cultured on algae, but they may also ingest bacteria, protozoans and other organic particles.
The parasitic glochidial stage absorbs blood and nutrients from hosts after attachment. Mantle cells within the glochidia feed off of the host’s tissue through phagocytocis. (Arey, 1921; Meglitsch and Schram, 1991; Watters, 1995)
- Plant Foods
- Other Foods
- Foraging Behavior
Unionids in general are preyed upon by muskrats, raccoons, minks, otters, and some birds. Juveniles are probably also fed upon by freshwater drum, sheepshead, lake sturgeon, spotted suckers, redhorses, and pumpkinseeds.
Unionid mortality and reproduction is affected by unionicolid mites and monogenic trematodes feeding on gill and mantle tissue. Parasitic chironomid larvae may destroy up to half the mussel gill. (Cummings and Mayer, 1992; Watters, 1995)
- Known Predators
- muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
- mink, Neovison vison
- raccoon Procyon lotor
- otter, Lontra canadensis
- turtles, Testudines
- hellbenders, Cryptobranchus
- freshwater drum, Aplodinotus grunniens
- sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus
- lake sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens
- shortnosed sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum
- spotted suckers, Minytrema melanops
- common red-horse, Moxostoma
- catfish, Siluriformes
- pumpkinseed, Lepomis gibbosus
While freshwater mussels require a host fish for metamorphosis, the host for the spike is unknown.
- Ecosystem Impact
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Mussels are ecological indicators. Their presence in a water body usually indicates good water quality.
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no significant negative impacts of mussels on humans.
Epioblasma sulcata is a federally Endangered species in both the United States and Canada. IUCN lists this species as Critically Endangered.
The population in Michigan is actually a subspecies population, Epioblasma obliquata perobliqua. Another subspecies, Epioblasma obliquata obliquata has a purple nacre and does not occur in Michigan.
Renee Sherman Mulcrone (author).
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
- bilateral symmetry
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
an animal that mainly eats decomposed plants and/or animals
particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
union of egg and spermatozoan
a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
(as keyword in perception channel section) This animal has a special ability to detect heat from other organisms in its environment.
- internal fertilization
fertilization takes place within the female's body
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death
photosynthetic or plant constituent of plankton; mainly unicellular algae. (Compare to zooplankton.)
an animal that mainly eats plankton
- seasonal breeding
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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Burch, J. 1975. Freshwater unionacean clams (Mollusca: Pelecypoda) of North America. Hamburg, Michigan: Malacological Publications.
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