The giant floater is a widespread species, found throughout te Mississippi and Missouri river drainages, the St. Lawrence drainage,, Gulf of Mexico through Louisiana and Texas. In Canada it is in the Interior basin from western Ontario to Alberta.
In Michigan, (Burch, 1975)is found throughout streams, lakes and rivers in the state. In general, it is more common in lakes, but is widespread throughout river systems.
The giant floater is found in all habitats, but mainly in lakes or slower moving waters, including backwaters of streams, rivers, and impoundments. It can colonize newly impounded streams. Generally, it is found in substrates of mud or sand, but can also be found in gravel. (Cummings and Mayer, 1992; Oesch, 1984; van der Schalie, 1938; Watters, 1995)
- Habitat Regions
- Aquatic Biomes
- rivers and streams
The giant floater is up to 25.4 cm (10 inches) long , and is elliptical or elongated in shape. The shape often varies. The shell is usually fairly thin and inflated. The anterior end is broadly rounded, the posterior end bluntly pointed. The dorsal hinge line is slightly curved and the ventral margin is straight or slightly curved.
Umbos are full, raised slightly above the hinge line and are situated slightly towards the anterior part of the shell. The beak sculpture has three to five double-looped ridges.
The periostracum (outer shell layer) is smooth, yellow to yellow-green with rays in younger individuals. Older specimens tend to be more brown.
The beak cavity is broad and shallow. The nacre varies from silvery white, yellow, pink or copper.
In Michigan, this species can be confused with Pyganodon lacustris, paper pondshell, creeper, and cylindrical papershell. Pyganodon lacustris is generally more elongate. The paper pondshell has flattened umbos. The creeper may have a slightly waved and thickened hinge. The cyclindrical papershell generally has a beak sculpture of concentric, single loops. (Cummings and Mayer, 1992; Oesch, 1984; Watters, 1995)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes alike
- Range length
- 25.4 (high) mm
- 1.00 (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 giant floater breeds once in the warmer months of the year.
- Breeding season
- In Michigan, the breeding season is probably May through July.
- Range gestation period
- 10 (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. How the giant floater attracts its fish hosts 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. (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.
Glochidial metamorphosis and natural infestations have been observed for bluegill, green sunfish, black crappie, rock bass, largemouth bass, bluntnose minnow, central stoneroller, common shiner, striped shiner, blackchin shiner, blacknose shiner, brook silverside, Iowa darter, Johnny darter, rainbow darter, and yellow perch.
In lab trials, glochidial metamorphosis was observed on banded killifish, golden topminnow, longnose gar, longear sunfish, pumpkinseed, creek chub, golden shiner, redfin shiner, blacknose dace, brook stickleback (Arey, 1932; Howells, 1997; Lefevre and Curtis, 1910; Penn, 1939; Trdan and Hoeh, 1982; Tucker, 1928)
- Ecosystem Impact
- bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus
- green sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus
- black crappie, Pomoxis nigromaculatus
- rock bass, Ambloplites rupestris
- largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides
- bluntnose minnow, Pimephales notatus
- central stoneroller, Campestoma anomalum
- common shiner, Luxilus cornutus
- striped shiner, Luxilus chrysocephalus
- blackchin shiner, Notropis heterodon
- blacknose shiner, Notropis heterolepis
- brook silverside, Labidesthes sicculus
- Iowa darter, Etheostoma exile
- Johnny darter, Etheostoma nigrum
- rainbow darter, Etheostoma caeruleum
- yellow perch, Perca flavescens
- banded killifish, Fundulus diaphanus
- golden topminnow, Fundulus chrysotus
- longnose gar, Lepisosteus osseus
- longear sunfish, Lepomis megalotis
- pumpkinseed, Lepomis gibbosus
- creek chub, Semotilus atromaculatus
- golden shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas
- redfin shiner, Lythrurus umbratilis
- blacknose dace, Rhinichthys atratulus
- brook stickleback, Culaea inconstans
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
- external fertilization
fertilization takes place outside the female's body
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.
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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Penn, G. 1939. A study of the life cycle of the freshwater mussel, Anodonta grandis, in New Orleans. Nautilus, 52: 99-101.
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Watters, G. 1995. A guide to the freshwater mussels of Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
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.