Passive transport of Eastern Elliptio (Elliptio complanata) by freshwater turtles in New England
Keywords:Eastern Elliptio, Elliptio complanata, freshwater mussel, Wood Turtle, Glyptemys insculpta, Eastern Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta, Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina, fingernail clam, Sphaeriidae, Sphaerium sp., dispersal
Dispersal of freshwater mussels (order Unionida) is primarily as glochidia on the fins and gills of host fish. Adult mussels are more sessile, generally moving short distances (<2 m/week) along lake and river beds. Between 2007 and 2016, we observed seven instances of adult Eastern Elliptio (Elliptio complanata) and one instance of a fingernail clam (Sphaerium sp.) attached to the feet of freshwater turtles in streams and ponds of New England, United States. Observations included five instances of mussels attached to Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) in Maine and Massachusetts, one instance of a mussel attached to the fingernail of an Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) in Massachusetts, one instance of a mussel attached to a Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) in Massachusetts, and one instance of a fingernail clam attached to the fingernail of an Eastern Painted Turtle in Massachusetts. We suggest that Eastern Elliptio may be susceptible to transport by freshwater turtles foraging in mussel beds and that transport of adult mussels by freshwater turtles could result in otherwise atypical long-distance, upstream, or overland dispersal between waterbodies.
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