Imperiled, some freshwater mussels endure. How?

PhD student Brandon Sansom, stands in front of the mussel flume.

PhD student Brandon Sansom (right) stands in front of the mussel flume with adviser Sean Bennett, chair of the Department of Geography. Photo: Douglas Levere.


Freshwater mussels are among the most imperiled animals in North America, yet some colonies have managed to persevere despite habitat loss, pollution and other threats.

How? That’s a question UB researchers are working to answer.

A recent analysis of two creeks — one within the Great Lakes watershed, the other part of the Mississippi River basin — adds to the growing body of work showing stable populations and multiple generations of freshwater mussels in the same location for decades.

The work, described in the journal Freshwater Biology in August, and continuing with ongoing experiments, offers possible explanations of how these poorly understood and ecologically important mollusks are adapting to changes in their environment.

“The United States has an unparalleled collection of freshwater mussels. Yet many are endangered or threatened. Some species have been declared extinct. We’d like to know how certain species persist and why others struggle,” says lead author Brandon Sansom, a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Co-authors of the Freshwater Biology study include Sean Bennett, professor and chair of the Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences; Joseph Atkinson, professor and chair of the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering; and Caryn Vaughn, George Lynn Cross Research Professor at the University of Oklahoma.


Published November 14, 2018

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