Native species of freshwater mussels (unionids) were historically common throughout the coastal waters of the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair. These species suffered dramatic and precipitous declines in the 1990s following the introduction and explosive spread of zebra mussels. However, for undetermined reasons native unionids persist as high-diversity remnant populations in certain coastal wetland locations and nearshore locations in the Great Lakes, including the St. Clair River Delta in Lake St. Clair. These locations appear to be refuges from zebra mussel impacts for coastal native unionids, including state-listed Threatened, Endangered, and Special Concern Species. The long-term viability of these populations and communities are unknown, but is likely affected by the degree of genetic diversity within the populations as well as gene flow between the refuge populations and riverine populations within the watershed, which tend to be less impacted by zebra mussels and more genetically diverse.
We are studying the degree of genetic connection between native unionid populations in coastal refuges in the St. Clair River Delta and the lower Great Lakes, and populations in the surrounding tributaries. Maintaining the genetic health of the potentially isolated refuge populations is critical to their conservation. In addition, we are assessing and comparing the genetic diversity of the refuge and riverine populations and modeling where other refuges may exist. Consequently, the findings are expected to inform development of conservation strategies for coastal unionid populations and appropriate actions for managing them in the context of foreseeable threats, such as habitat loss and fragmentation due to coastal development and changing lake levels.
Funding for this project is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Collaborators on this project include: Dr. Dave Zanatta (Central Michigan University), Dr. Lyuba Burlakova and Dr. Alexander Karatayev (Buffalo State College), Dr. Bob Krebs (Cleveland State University), Dr. Jon Bossenbroek (University of Toledo), Dr. Michael Hoggarth (Otterbein College), Don Schloesser (USGS - Great Lakes Science Center) and state agency representatives from the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, the Pennsylvania Fiah and Boat Commission, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the Michigan DNRE, and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory
Original Proposal to US Fish and Wildlife Service
Planning Meeting, Lake Erie Center (U. of Toledo), February 25-26, 2011
Materials from the meeting are below:
Focus 1: Assessment of Unionid Refuges (Lyubov Burlakova, Buffalo State)
Focus 2: Genetic Considerations (Dave Zanatta, CMU)
Focus 3: Habitat Modeling (Jon Bossenbroek, UT)
Presentation by Dave Zanatta (CMU)
Presentation by Jessica Sherman (CMU)
Presentation by Todd Crail (UT)
Presentation by Trevor Prescott (CSU)
Presentation by Doug Kapusinski (KSU)
Presentation by Ferenc de Szalay (KSU)
Presentation by Beth Meyer (Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program)
Presentation by Mike Hoggarth (Otterbein College)
Meeting and Conference Call Notes:
Toledo meeting notes (Feb 25-26, Jessica Sherman)
Conference Call notes (May 19, Dave Zanatta)
Cleveland State University - Meeting agenda and summary of summer 2011 data
(Nov 12, 2012)
Bryan, N. J., C. V. Florence, T. D. Crail, and D. L. Moorhead. 2013. Freshwater mussel community response to warm water discharge in western Lake Erie. Journal of Great Lakes Research 39:449-454. (PDF)
Rowe, M.T. and D.T. Zanatta. 2015. Investigating the genetic variation and structure of a native unionid mussel in the Laurentian Great Lakes following an invasion of dreissenid mussels. Biological Invasions 17:351-364. (PDF)
Paterson, W.L., T.A. Griffith, L.E. Burlakova, R.W. Krebs, and D.T. Zanatta. Accepted - Pending Revision. An evaluation of the genetic structure of mapleleaf mussels (Quadrula quadrula) in the Lake Erie watershed. Journal of Great Lakes Research.
Zanatta, D.T., J. Bossenbroek, L. Burlakova, T. Crail, F. de Szalay, T.A. Griffith, D. Kapusinski, A Karateyev, R.A. Krebs, E.S. Meyer, W.L. Paterson, T.J. Prescott, M.T. Rowe, D. Schloesser, and M.C. Walsh. 2015. Distribution of native mussel (Unionidae) assemblages in coastal Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and connecting channels, twenty-five years after the dreissenid invasion. Northeastern Naturalist 22(1): 223-235. PDF
Krebs, R.A., B.D. Allen, N.M. Evans, and D.T. Zanatta. 2015. Mitochondrial DNA structure of Pyganodon grandis (Bivalvia: Unionidae) from the Lake Erie watershed and selected locations in its northern distribution. American Malacological Bulletin 33(1): 34-42. PDF
Burlakova, L.E., B.L. Tulumello, A.Y. Karatayev, R.A. Krebs, D.W. Schloesser, W.L. Paterson, T.A. Griffith, M.W. Scott, T.D Crail, and D.T. Zanatta. 2014. Competitive replacement of invasive congeners may relax impact on native species: interactions among zebra, quagga, and native unionid mussels. PLoS ONE 9(12): e114926. LINK
Scott, M.W., M.T. Begley, R.A. Krebs, and D.T. Zanatta. 2014. Mitochondrial DNA variation in the Eastern Pondmussel, Ligumia nasuta (Bivalvia: Unionoida), in the Great Lakes region. Walkerana 17(2): 60-67. PDF
Conference Presentations and Posters:
Fatmucket population genetics in the St. Clair delta - by Matt Rowe (CMU), presented at IAGLR 2012
Eastern Pondmussel phylogeography in Great Lakes - by Mariah Scott (CMU), presented at FMCS 2013
Flutedshell population genetics in the
St. Clair delta - by Lindsay Kolich (CMU), presented at IAGLR 2012. Winner of HYDROLAB/IAGLR Student Poster Paper award.
Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair sampling summary - by Dave Zanatta (CMU) et al., presented at FMCS 2013.
Assessment of remnant unionid mussel assemblages in Lake Erie and St. Clair - by Dave Zanatta (CMU) et al., presented at LEMN 2013.
Raw Survey Data:
LINK - 2011 data
LINK - 2012 data
Protocols and Fieldsheets:
Field Protocols for Summer 2011
Refuge Data Sheets
Unionid Tally Sheets
Tributary Data Sheets
Mantle Clipping Protocol
Summer 2011 Field Schedule (Firm - June 24/2011, updated July 18)
Field Participants Contact List
MORE TO COME...