The Yellow Lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa; YLM) is a freshwater mussel (Unionoida) with a restricted range in Massachusetts. The species is currently only known to exist in the Connecticut River mainstem and lower sections of a few major tributaries, with one historic record from the Merrimack River. The species is protected as Endangered under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA), and prior to 2006, was thought to be extirpated from the Commonwealth. Increased surveys from 2005 through 2014 suggest that the Massachusetts population is widespread, with patches of individuals in the Connecticut River from the Connecticut state line upstream to Hadley, MA. Threats to the YLM in the Connecticut River are not fully understood, but are likely associated with hydrologic alteration and sediment distribution. Historic and current point and non-point sources of pollution may also affect the distribution and viability of these populations.
Like other native freshwater mussels, the YLM’s lifecycle includes a parasitic larval stage (glochidia), which must attach to and mature on a fish host. Yellow Lampmussels have been observed to use Striped Bass, White Perch, Yellow Perch, and Smallmouth Bass as hosts throughout their range. However, host fishes for the Massachusetts populations may be unique, and identification of region-specific host fishes may guide conservation efforts through fishery management. Laboratory propagation of freshwater mussels has also been identified in the Massachusetts State Wildlife Action Plan as a potential conservation measure to reintroduce mussels to historically occupied sites, or to augment populations that are currently present. The Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center in Sunderland, MA began research to propagate freshwater mussels in 2015, making it the first mussel propagation facility in New England.
The project aims to conduct research to inform conservation of YLM through investigations of early life history and ecology. Specifically, USFWS and UMass will:
1. Culture YLM juveniles using proven methods.
2. Investigate methods to increase growth and survival of juvenile YLM.
Research on Eastern Lampmussel (L. radiata), a surrogate species with similar characteristics to YLM, may be used to address the second objective in the event YLM juveniles are not available in research quantities.