Life History strategies of freshwater mussels along longitudinal gradients in the Meramec River, Missouri
Life history theory provides insight to the adaptive significance of an organism’s response to environmental pressures. Understanding the life history strategies within mussel communities can therefore help inform conservation and management actions for vulnerable assemblages. Prior work indicates that dominant life histories of mussel assemblages change with river size, between large and small rivers, and within rivers, from headwaters to downstream. Mid-sized rivers act as a transitional zone. Our goal in this study was to examine upstream to downstream patterns of mussel life histories in the Meramec River drainage in Missouri, a high-priority conservation area. Using surveys from the Missouri Department of Conservation database and Haag’s 2012 descriptions of life history strategies, we investigated proportional changes in life history strategies of freshwater mussels longitudinally, from headwaters to downstream, in the Meramec, Big, and Bourbeuse Rivers in Missouri. We present our findings for each river and compare patterns of life history strategies within the Meramec River to the proposed patterns by Haag 2012. Our results can help to inform conservation of mussels by increasing the understanding of mussel species’ habitat selection in relation to life history, essential information for successful propagation and reintroduction efforts.