Beyond Your Backyard: Mussel Mania

As the weather gets crisp, I find myself thinking of Halloween and what great costumes I could make with a bucket of papier-mâché and a will to create. Even though Halloween will likely be different this year as everything has been, that’s no reason not to come up with a stellar costume. And what better thing to dress up as than… a mollusk. That’s right. A Minnesota mussel, a bivalve, a clam. It’s the clear winner of every Halloween costume contest—even virtual ones. We call it an open and shut case. Not convinced? Here’s some mussel morsels that will make you realize clearly it is the only costume option this year.

  • Did you know mussels are incredibly long-lived? They can live for decades and some can even live over a century!
  • Mussels are essentially immobile, but can move with their muscular “foot,” which they use to anchor themselves in the substrate.
  • Most mussels need host fish to reproduce. Some need specific species and others are generalists and most any fish will do.
  • Most mussels use lures to attract fish. Watch this video from Missouri to check it out. It is weird and wonderful.
  • Many different species of mussels live together in beds.
  • Their role in the ecosystem:
    • When they feed, they filter water and then expel organic matter, which becomes food for other organisms.
    • Their shells provide habitat for algae, insect larvae, and other organisms.
    • Their empty shells are used as egg-laying sites or hiding places for fish and other animals.
    • They anchor the substrate in the lake, river, or stream and can make it less vulnerable to scouring.
    • They are good indicators of system health because they filter water, they are also vulnerable to pollution, which means when they decline, it is a signal to us that something is not working right.
    • They are critically important in the aquatic food web and are eaten by many fish, mammal, and bird species.

Now that I’ve given you this incredible plan, I can’t wait to see your clam fam costume photos. Not sure what color to paint your costume? Check out this Minnesota mussel poster for some ideas. And while you’re at it, take some time today to thank a mollusk, why dontcha?

Mind blown? Ready for more? To learn more about mussels go here:
And check-out the Mussel Mania episode of the Prairie Pod (Season 3, Episode 1).