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  • I started exploring the Sebasticook Watershed some years ago. A few years back we got to the headwaters or close. First I need to tell you I am a lazy naturalist and a disorganized one. I simply explore randomly and I am not well informed. I try to align myswlf with those more organized , more systematic but I always wander off. So I wont surprise then to know that I had no idea that there were fresh water mussels and that they are essential parts of many local creatures diets. I just became a fan. To me they seemed like foreign invaders. How did they get from the sea? They could not swim upstream. I know now that my thoughts were ignorant but they were my thoughts. The truth is even richer.
    You may be glad to know that I did educated myself lightly through the state website:

    Yellow Lampmussel Lampsilis cariosa
    and the Tidewater Mucket Leptodea ochracea
    state-listed threatened species of mussels, yellow lampmussels (Lampsilis cariosa) and tidewater muckets (Leptodea
    lentic habitat

    Maine may have some of the largest remaining populations of yellow lampmussels in the East, and will play an important role in the species' conservation. Protection of clean, unaltered watersheds and associated forested riparian areas is necessary for the long-term existence of this species. The yellow lampmussel shares much of its habitat in Maine with the tidewater mucket (threatened), shortnose sturgeon (federally threatened), Atlantic salmon (federally endangered), and other rare species like the brook floater (mussel), wood turtle, and New England bluet damselfly. Adhering to state wetland and Shoreland Zoning laws and water quality Best Management Practices contributes greatly to maintaining the quality of aquatic habitats for this species. Shoreland zoning and LURC zoning standards provide protection of habitat up to 250 feet from larger rivers. Some forest companies voluntarily extend the conservation of intact, forested riparian zones to 330-600 feet for larger rivers.
    Freshwater mussels have a curious way of reproducing that depends on the presence of fish. The yellow lampmussel breeds in late summer, when males release sperm into the water and females filter it out of the water with their gills. Once the eggs are fertilized, females brood the growing larvae, called glochidia, in a modified portion of their gills called a marsupium.
    The following summer, each larvae-bearing female releases thousands of mature glochidia. At this stage, glochidia require fish hosts to change into the subadult form of a mussel. They can only survive for a short time on their own and must quickly encounter a suitable host fish. To aid the glochidia in finding a host, larvae-bearing female yellow lampmussels use a fleshy modification of their mantle (flap-like tissue lining the shell) that is shaped like a small minnow to attract fish. When a fish bites the lure, glochidia are released. They then attach to the fish's gills (without apparent harm to the fish) for a period of weeks or months before transforming into tiny mussels and dropping off to settle in the bottom. Each mussel species requires one or more specific fish species to serve as suitable hosts. Currently, known fish hosts for the yellow lampmussel are yellow and white perch.
    Freshwater mussels grow rapidly during their first 4-6 years of life, before they become reproductively mature. Longevity of the yellow lampmussel is likely 15 years or more. Mussels continually filter vast quantities of water and consume bacteria, algae, and plant and animal debris. They burrow into the bottom and anchor themselves with a muscular foot. They have a limited ability to move slowly around the lake or river bottom to find the best sites for feeding and reproducing. Mussels are an important food item for some aquatic mammals, especially otters, muskrats, and raccoons, as evidenced by piles of shells (middens) often seen along shorelines.
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