Elliptio complanata (Eastern Elliptio) is typically an abundant species in lotic systems throughout the northeastern US; however, as with many other freshwater mussel species, some populations of Eastern Elliptio are in decline. Freshwater mussels have complex life cycles, which are important to understand for their conservation and management. The goal of this study was to determine the timing of Eastern Elliptio spawning, brooding, and glochidia release. Throughout the spawning season, we used gonad and gill extracts and drift nets to track the timing of reproduction in Otego Creek, NY, a tributary to the Susquehanna River. Females began brooding fertilized eggs by mid-May, and by early June, all females collected were brooding fertilized eggs or d-shaped glochidia. The temperature was 18 °C when all females contained glochidia. Peak glochidia-drift occurred ∼1 week after we recorded the highest levels of brooding and continued at low levels for several weeks. Phenology modeling helped us to determine that accumulated thermal units was the best predictor of reproductive activity. Our work highlights the environmental cues responsible for spawning, brooding, and glochidia release in a population of Eastern Elliptio. This empirical approach to predicting reproductive activity has great potential as a tool for timing the collection of brood stock for propagation or other important conservation measures.
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Vol. 26 • No. 1