Early life-history and conservation status of Venustaconcha ellipsiformis (Bivalvia, Unionidae) in Minnesota

Daniel C. Allen, Bernard E. Sietman, Daniel E. Kelner, Mark C. Hove, Jennifer E. Kurth, J. Mike Davis, Jeffery L. Weiss, Daniel J. Hornbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The ellipse, Venustaconcha ellipsifarmis (Bivalvia: Unionidae), was first recorded in Minnesota from the Straight River in 1987, but we knew little of its distribution in the state, brooding behavior, glochidial host fish relationships or status. To examine these questions, we followed standard procedures to conduct an extensive, qualitative statewide mussel survey, described mantle flapping behavior from field and laboratory observations and identified suitable glochidia hosts in the laboratory and from naturally infested fishes. We found extant populations in five Mississippi River tributaries in southeastern Minnesota: the Cannon, Cedar, Root, Upper Iowa and Zumbro rivers. This appears to be the extent of its historic range in Minnesota as no valid records were found elsewhere. Among these, the largest population occurred in the headwaters of the Root River drainage, which was also the only drainage where we observed recent recruitment. Brooding V. ellipsiformis quickly flap a small mantle extension, often in response to passing shadows or jarring of the substrate, or their mantle extensions may be slowly undulated. We identified 11 fish species as suitable hosts for V. ellipsiformis glochidia in the laboratory: brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans), mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii), slimy sculpin (C. cognatus), logperch (Percina caprodes), mud darter (Etheostoma asprigene), rainbow darter (E. caeruleum), Iowa darter (E. exile), fantail darter (E. flabbelare), Johnny darter (E. nigrum), banded darter (E. zonale) and blackside darter (P. maculata). Rainbow darter, fantail darter and blackside darter were also found naturally infested with V. ellipsiformis glochidia. Venustaconcha ellipsiformis should remain classified as a "Threatened" species in Minnesota and management should include conserving populations within drainages due to its restricted range and likely low dispersal ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-91
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Midland Naturalist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Early life-history and conservation status of Venustaconcha ellipsiformis (Bivalvia, Unionidae) in Minnesota'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this