The black sandshell is found throughout the Mississippi drainage from Pennsylvania to Minnesota and south to Oklahoma and Alabama. It also occurs in the Alabama River and St. Lawrence River drainage. In Canada, it is found in the Canadian Interior basin in Lake Winnipeg and the Winnipeg and Red River systems.
In Michigan this species is found in the mainstem and/or lower stretches of rivers in the lower peninsula, generally from the Muskegon River and south, including the Detroit River. (Burch, 1975; van der Schalie, 1938)has been recorded from the Menominee and Sturgeon Rivers in the upper peninsula.
The black sandshell is found in rivers, lakes, and large streams, usually in riffles or raceways with good current. Substrates it inhabits include sandy mud, firm sand, or gravel.
In the Huron River it was common in large and medium-sized river conditions with sand and gravel bottom in the current. Younger individuals were also found at one site on a fine sand-mud bottom in a backwater area. (Cummings and Mayer, 1992; van der Schalie, 1938; Watters, 1995)
- Habitat Regions
- Aquatic Biomes
- rivers and streams
The black sandshell is up to 25 cm (10 inches) long , and is elongate and quadrate in shape. The shell is usually fairly thick, heavy, somewhat inflated and cylindrical. The anterior end is rounded, the posterior end pointed in males, saber-shaped in females. The dorsal margin is straight and the ventral margin is straight to gently curved.
Umbos are low, being raised only slightly above the hinge line. Beaks are situated nearer to the anterior margin than the posterior margin. The beak sculpture has two to three indistinct, double-looped bars.
The periostracum (outer shell layer) is smooth, shiny, dark green or brown. Older specimens tend to be more black. The valves sometimes have visible green rays.
On the inner shell, the left valve has two pseudocardinal teeth, which are long, triangular, serrated and divergent. The two lateral teeth are straight, rough, thin and long. The right valve has one high, notched,triangular pseudocardinal tooth. Anterior to this tooth is occasionally a smaller (lamellar) tooth. The right lateral tooth is also straight, rough, thin and long.
The beak cavity is shallow. The nacre varies, from white, pink, and salmon, and occasionally is purple. At the posterior end it is iridescent.
In Michigan, this species can be confused with the spike. The spike is generally smaller and more compressed. The black sandshell also tends to be shiny and more distinctly rayed. (Cummings and Mayer, 1992; Oesch, 1984; Watters, 1995)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes shaped differently
- Range length
- 25 (high) cm
- 9.84 (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.
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval
- The black sandshell breeds once in the warmer months of the year.
- Breeding season
- In Michigan, the breeding season is probably mid-July through August.
- Range gestation period
- 11 (high) 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
The age of mussels can be determined by looking at annual rings on the shell. However, no demographic data on this species has been recorded.
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. (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 black sandshell attracts and/or recognizes a 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
Fish hosts are determined by looking at both lab metamorphosis and natural infestations. Looking at both is necessary, as lab transformations from glochidia to juvenile may occur, but the mussel may not actually infect a particular species in a natural situation. Natural infestations may also be found, but glochidia will attach to almost any fish, including those that are not suitable hosts. Lab transformations involve isolating one particular fish species and introducing glochidia either into the fish tank or directly inoculating the fish gills with glochidia. Tanks are monitored and if juveniles are later found the fish species is considered a suitable host.
In lab trials, glochidia have metamorphosed on several other fish, including the banded killifish, white perch, central stoneroller, redfin shiner, rosyface shiner, redbreast sunfish, green sunfish, longear sunfish, orangespotted sunfish, pumpkinseed, rock bass, largemouth bass, walleye and yellow perch. (Coker, et al., 1921; Cummings and Watters, 2004; Hove, M.C., J.E. Kurth, et al., 1998; Lefevre and Curtis, 1912; Steg and Neves, 1997; Watters, et al., 1999; Young, 1911)
- Ecosystem Impact
- bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus
- white crappie, Pomoxis annularis
- banded killifish, Fundulus diaphanus
- white perch, Morone americana
- central stoneroller, Campestoma anomalum
- redfin shiner, Lythrurus umbratilis
- rosyface shiner, Notropis rubellus
- redbreast sunfish Lepomis auritus
- green sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus
- longear sunfish, Lepomis megalotis
- orangespotted sunfish, Lepomis humilis
- pumpkinseed, Lepomis gibbosus
- rock bass, Ambloplites rupestris
- largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides
- walleye, Sander vitreus
- yellow perch, Perca flavescens
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.
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.
- 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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van der Schalie, H. 1938. The naiad fauna of the Huron River, in southeastern Michigan. Miscellaneous Publications of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, 40: 1-83.