Early life history and distribution of pistolgrip (Tritogonia verrucosa (Rrafinesque, 1820)) in Minnesota and Wisconsin

Mark C. Hove, Bernard E. Sietman, Josh E. Bakelaar, Jennifer A. Bury, David J. Heath, Vanessa E. Pepi, Jennifer E. Kurth, J. Mike Davis, Daniel J. Hornbach, Anne R. Kapuscinski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We conducted a series of studies to improve our understanding of pistolgrip life history and distribution in Minnesota and Wisconsin. In the St. Croix River, where this species is relatively abundant, we studied animals biweekly from May-Nov. 1997, Apr.-Oct. 1998 and nearly biweekly during May-Jul. 2004-2007 and observed gravid females between late Apr.-Jul. at water temperatures 13-25 AC. Females held mature glochidia in a large mantle magazine that was significantly more inflated at night. Fifty-seven pistolgrip glochidia measured using scanning electron microscopy had an average height and length of 119 ±6 μ and 102 ±4 μ (±1 sd), respectively. Of 65 fish species (18 families) exposed to pistolgrip glochidia only flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) and brown (Ameiurus nebulosus) and yellow (A. natalis) bullheads were suitable hosts, with flathead catfish showing the strongest host response. Glochidia grew 422 ± 17% while attached to fish. Pistolgrip is found in central and southeastern U.S. but is declining in several locations. Surveys conducted between 1980 and 2009 show the geographic range of pistolgrip has decreased in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is extirpated from the Minnesota River and nearly so in the Mississippi River. However, we see evidence of a recovering population in a once heavily polluted reach of the Mississippi River downstream of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The largest populations are in the lower reaches of the St. Croix (MN, WI), Chippewa, Black, Wolf and Wisconsin rivers (WI). In light of the apparent close association between pistolgrip and flathead catfish, we recommend pistolgrip conservation efforts include sustainable flathead catfish management and habitat improvement to support expansion of remaining pistolgrip populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-354
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Midland Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


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