Plasticity in Life History Traits of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel — Consequences for the Danger of Extinction and for Conservation Measures

  • G. Bauer
Part of the Advances in Life Sciences book series (ALS)


In Central Europe, the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) is threatened with extinction. It is shown how the danger of extinction is influenced by the plasticity of life history traits. The pearl mussel’s life history strategy has been selected for a high lifetime fertility, which is attained by combining high life expectancy (= high number of reproductive periods) and high fertility. However, these two traits exhibit a considerable plasticity, which depends on the individual growth constant (i.e. the rate at which the asymptotic size is approached). The growth constant is influenced by a number of environmental factors: for example it increases with increasing temperature. An increased growth constant (= accelerated growth) leads to a reduction of life span, maximum size and fertility. These relationships reduce the lifetime fertility of individuals growing at a high rate. Populations consisting of such individuals should exhibit a high sensitivity to threats for two reasons: the growth rate of the population is low and the time until extinction is shortened due to the low individual life span. This hypothesis is confirmed by the population trend in different areas of the FRG. The results are discussed with respect to conservation strategies.


Life History Strategy Reproductive Period Growth Constant Pearl Mussel High Life Expectancy 
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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Bauer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal Ecology IUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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