We’re blessed to have the Missouri River flow right through Great Falls. It’s beauty changes throughout the seasons, and there’s always something new to experience. Years ago it was a surprise for me to see pelicans in Montana, but they’re a regular feature in the area. And just last week I learned we had clams. We have mussels… thousands of them… in the Missouri. The water is down because the dam folks are doing some spill gate maintenance (one of the spill gates has some cracks in it) so it’s amazingly low. The mussels are all over the place in the now shallow water.
My husband, the fisheries biologist for this region, said they’re called Fatmuckets (Lampsilis siliquoidea). According to the Montana Field Guide they are one of the most widespread mussels in the country, and is the largest native mussel in our region. Their life cycle is fairly unique. The male releases sperm that is gathered by the female, and the fertilized eggs are reared in the female’s gills. They develop into a larvae called glochidia. The female releases the glochidia, which attach themselves to the gills of a fish. Although the glochidia are a bit of a parasite, they don’t harm the host fish, and once they reach a certain maturity level they simply drop off and start the cycle again. Fatmuckets live for decades, which is why Grant said they’re loaded with mercury (a naturally occurring element) and not good to eat.
I was really surprised at how many dotted the river bottom among the rocks. Grant took off his shoes and waded out to pick out a few to show the boys. Even Luna had to have a taste. Ick. It’s always fun to learn something new.