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Title: Conservation ecology of the endangered freshwater pearl mussel, Margaritifera margaritifera
Author: Thomas, Gethin Rhys
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2011
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The general aim of this thesis was to examine the merits of ex-situ vs. in-situ strategies for the conservation of the endangered freshwater pearl mussel, Margaritifera margaritifera, and to investigate the relationship of the larval parasitic stages of the mussel (glochidia) with the salmonid hosts. To this end, I critically reviewed the literature on conservation of freshwater mussels, developed methods for quantifying the behaviour and activity patterns of adult mussels in captivity, experimentally studied host specificity, and quantified the physiological and behavioural effects of glochidia upon salmonid hosts. The results indicate that the conservation of the freshwater pearl mussel is probably best addressed at the watershed scale, and will benefit from a combination of ex-situ and in-situ techniques, as well as from a more critical assessment of findings, many of which are only reported in the grey literature. Empirical, peer-reviewed data are badly needed to inform current conservation efforts. Novel Hall-effect magnetic sensors were used to quantify and characterise discrete mussel behaviours without adversely affecting the welfare or survival of adult mussels, and these hold considerable potential for determining optimal rearing conditions for ex-situ conservation. Arctic charr was shown to be a potentially suitable host for M. margaritifera, and occupied an intermediate position in host suitability between brown trout and Atlantic salmon. Physiological impacts of glochidia upon brown trout included swelling of secondary lamellae and spleen enlargement, but the latter tended to be slight and was restricted to 1 month post-exposure. Glochidia encystment had no significant effect on blood haematocrit, respiratory performance, or cryptic colouration of brown trout hosts. The behavioural effects were more subtle and glochidiosis made brown trout more risk-averse and less willing to explore a novel habitat, without affecting the host's ability to chemically recognise and avoid cues from a predator. Overall, the results of this thesis indicate that the impacts of glochidia upon salmonid hosts are probably slight and temporally variable, and may perhaps lead to increased host survival, which would support the symbiosis-protocooperation theory of glochidia-salmonid interaction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Margaritifera margaritifera ; Conservation biology ; Mussels ; Endangered ecosystems