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The Altamaha River



Teachers Notes

Photo Gallery of Various Mussels

Teachers Notes for Mussels of the Altamaha

Materials available: Display posters, display case, and mussel shells are obtainable on loan from Glynn Environmental Coalition, Brunswick, GA (912 634-0234).

Printed materials can be printed directly from this website. Just choose FILE>PRINT from any page shown in your browser.

1. What are mussels?

Have the display case of mussel shells and posters on exhibit, and the shells for students to handle.

Discuss the various mussels and how they are different.

2. Where do mussels live (habitat)?

Discuss the water cycle and watershed concept (land use equals water quality).

explain habitat.

Ask what a animal like a mussel needs for habitat. (water, food, sand for burrowing)

3. What do mussels eat?

Ask students what else they use their gill for.

4. Interactions with other animals.

  • Use mussel poster to show different shapes of mussels.
  • Use poster to show that in some mussels part of the mantle of the female resembles a swimming minnow that lures potential host fish, increasing the chance that her larvae will attach to the right fish and survive. The larvae remain on the host fish until they have changed into adults, then they drop off to the bottom of the water. This parasitic stage assures a wide distribution of the mussels.
  • Discuss: The fertilized eggs develop into larvae (glochidia) and are stored for a time in
    the female's gills (point out this third use of their gills). When the glochidia mature the
    female expels them into the water where they must attach themselves as parasites to gills or fins of fish. The fish act like swimming nurseries for baby mussels!

5. What are threats to mussels?

Point out water cycle and watershed interactions with point and nonpoint source pollution.

Point out water cycle and watershed interactions: land use equals water quality.

Discuss larval stage hitching a ride on fish for dispersal again and why this adaptation is no longer helping the freshwater mussels.

Explain what "threat" means.

Explain what a watershed is.

Talk about pollution and how it affects animals that live in the rivers, streams and wetlands.

6. What actions can we take to protect the environment?

Discuss how our actions affect the environment.

Where does runoff of agricultural chemicals (fertilzer, pesticides, herbicides) end up? How does it reach the river. Talk about the flow from a farm to a ditch to a creek./stream, to a river and then the ocean.

What happens when a small animal eats the pollution? Discuss bioaccumulation - little fish are eaten by bigger fish. People catch and eat the bigger fish.

7. What do people use mussels for?

Discuss modern uses.

Discuss historical uses.

"Mussels of the Altamaha River" is a course designed to teach ecological relationships and habitat use patterns using the mussels of the Altamaha River to show the interdependence of species for reproduction, transportation, and food. Objectives include discussion of the interdependence of all life within a watershed.
Produced under a grant by Georgia DNR Non Game Wildlife Programs by the Glynn Environmental Coalition.

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