Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Committee Chair/Advisor

Catherine M. Bodinof Jachowski

Committee Member

Brandon Peoples

Committee Member

Kyle Barrett


Freshwater mussels are a diverse group of filter-feeding bivalves inhabiting freshwater systems; however, ~70% of U.S. species are imperiled. Many freshwater mussel species use fish hosts to complete juvenile transformation making host fish knowledge important for conservation efforts like captive propagation. While captive propagation programs have produced thousands of juveniles, survival post-release into natural systems is poorly studied. To address these absences of information, my first objective was to investigate differences among host use of naturally infested fishes and timing of larval release. My second objective was to evaluate survivorship of laboratory propagated juvenile Carolina Heelsplitter (Lasmigona decorata), a federally endangered species, alongside another native species to investigate potential surrogacy. To investigate glochidia ecology among naturally infested fishes, we examined wild-caught fishes from Sleepy Creek of the Savannah River basin for glochidial infestations. We recorded glochidia presence on five fish species representing 11.2% of our laboratory investigated fishes. We found significant differences in presence among fish species but no differences in infestation intensity. Additionally, we found that water temperatures and fish total length significantly and positively affected glochidia presence. To evaluate survivorship of Carolina heelsplitter, we deployed 100 captively propagated Carolina heelsplitter of two basin origins, Pee Dee and Catawba, and 51 Eastern creekshell (Villosa delumbis) in four natural streams in the Catawba and Savannah River basins in South Carolina. We found that weekly survival probabilities differed by origin, declined over time, and increased with mussel length at deployment, with Carolina heelsplitter having much lower survivorship than Eastern creekshell.

Available for download on Friday, May 31, 2024