Changing perspectives on pearly mussels, North America's most imperiled animals
Pearly mussels (Unionacea) are widespread, abundant, and important in freshwater ecosystems around the world. Catastrophic declines in pearly mussel populations in North America and other parts of the world have led to a flurry of research on mussel biology, ecology, and conservation. Recent research on mussel feeding, life history, spatial patterning, and declines has augmented, modified, or overturned long-held ideas about the ecology of these animals. Pearly mussel research has begun to benefit from and contribute to current ideas about suspension feeding, life history theory, metapopulations, flow refuges, spatial patterning and its effects, and mangagement of endangered species. At the same time, significant gaps in understanding and apparent paradoxes in pearly mussel ecology have been exposed. To conserve remaining mussel populations, scientists and managers must simultaneously and aggressively pursue both rigorous research and conservation actions.