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Evaluation of potential health risks to Eastern Elliptio (Elliptio complanata) (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Unionida: Unionidae) and implications for sympatric endangered freshwater mussel species

Abstract

Conservation efforts for freshwater musselspecies require identification and evaluationof potential health risks to populations. Sampling large numbers of individual mussels,however, could damage the small, fragile,extant populations of imperiled mussel species. In this study, a small sample size was designedto reduce lethal sampling, costs, andenvironmental disruption, while still allowing95% confidence in detecting health risks of25% or greater prevalence in the population. Health assessments were conducted on twentyspecimens of the Eastern Elliptio, Elliptio complanata, collected from two NorthCarolina sites as part of a survey to evaluatepotential disease threats to mussels in theregion. Bacteriological sampling of thegastrointestinal tracts yielded 18 aerobicbacterial species, of which Aeromonashydrophila (55.0%), Enterobacter spp.(40.0%), and Bacillus spp.(30.0%) were predominant. Histologicallesions of internal organs included mild tomoderate digestive gland atrophy andinflammation in one mussel, and mild tomoderate parasitism in several individuals. Adistinct difference in parasite prevalence wasevident between infections in E.complanata from the two collection sites. Thetrematode metacercaria of Homalometronarmatum and what appears to be three gillciliate species, the most abundant beingtentatively identified as the scyphidiidperitrich Mantoscyphidia sp., were foundin mussels from one site only. This studydemonstrates a comprehensive diagnosticapproach incorporating multiple modalities toassess the health status of mussel populations,while minimizing the sample size required toobtain valuable information. Furthermore, thisstudy provides baseline health data of E.complanata at two sites in south-central NorthCarolina and suggests the potential usefulnessof E. complanata as an environmentalbioindicator of health risks to sympatricthreatened freshwater mussel populations.

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Correspondence to Beth Chittick*.

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Chittick*, B., Stoskopf, M., Law, M. et al. Evaluation of potential health risks to Eastern Elliptio (Elliptio complanata) (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Unionida: Unionidae) and implications for sympatric endangered freshwater mussel species. Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and Recovery 9, 35–42 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013167520252

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013167520252

  • bacteriology
  • bioindicator
  • ciliates
  • Eastern Elliptio
  • Elliptio complanata
  • health assessment
  • histology
  • sample size
  • trematodes