Length-specific growth rates in freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae): Extreme longevity or generalized growth cessation?

James L. Anthony, David H. Kesler, William L. Downing, John A. Downing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


1. North American lacustrine freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) are one of the world's most imperilled groups of organisms. Knowledge of their age structure and longevity is needed for the understanding and management of mussels. Current methods for age estimation in freshwater mussels are insufficient and may have resulted in an erroneous view of the ages of lacustrine freshwater mussels. 2. We collected growth data through mark-recapture in Minnesota and Rhode Island, U.S.A., examining four lentic populations of three of the most common species of freshwater mussels, Elliptio complanata, Lampsilis siliquoidea, and Pyganodon grandis. Using an inversion of the von Bertalanffy growth equation, we estimated age at length from length-specific growth relationships. 3. In some populations, lacustrine mussels may be much older than previously predicted. Ages predicted from actual growth rates suggest that individuals in some populations frequently reach ages in excess of a century, placing unionid mussels among the Earth's longest-lived animals. Alternatively, if growth has only recently slowed in these populations, generalized growth cessation may be occurring over a broad distributional range of some common North American lacustrine mussels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1359
Number of pages11
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Annuli
  • Freshwater mussels
  • Longevity
  • Unionidae
  • Von Bertalanffy


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