Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 85: Jan-Feb 1993

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











The Lures Of Mussels

Mussels entrust their larvae to the vagaries of the waters in which they live. How, then, are mussels ever able to colonize rivers, whose currents would always sweep their larvae downstream?

A pseudofish with tail, fins, and eye spot
A pseudofish with tail, fins, and eye spot displayed by a mussel.

"The riverine pioneers ran this roadblock by custom designing their baby mussels to hitchhike on fish. Kneehigh to a pinhead, the larval mussel, or glochidium, is nurtured by the thousands or millions in their mother's gills, and spewed in teeming puffs to the open waters. They cling as benign parasites to passing fish, and take a one- to three-week trip, drawing nutrients through their host's membranes and a free ride to new dwellings. They then drop to the bottom and begin their independent lives, some of which will span a half century or more.

"Glochidia that do not hook up with a host fish are doomed. To cover these stakes, the pocketbook mussel and its relatives have evolved a fleshy appendage that flaps in the currents and, to a smallmouth bass, looks like a breakfast minnow. Taking the bait. the duped fish gets doused with glochidia. Another resourceful mussel sends its glochidia out in pulsating little packets resembling worms."

(Stolzenburg, William; "The Mussels' Message," Nature Conservancy, p. 17, November/December 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #85, JAN-FEB 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987