The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Celebrating Forty Years of the Endangered Species Act: Higgins Eye Pearlymussel

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Scientific Name:
  Lampsilis higginsii

Year Listed on the Endangered Species List:  1976

Endangered Species Listing Status:  Endangered 

Conservation Efforts and Partners:   

In the early 1980s, biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, University of Minnesota, Macalaster College, and Western Wisconsin Technical College drafted the first Higgins eye recovery plan.  The plan was revised in 2004 after reviewing the outcomes of the first plan.

Now, a program to propagate juvenile Higgins eye and reintroduce them into their historic range is underway. In addition, there is an ongoing project for relocation of adult Higgins eye from one area of the Mississippi River that had been infested by the invasive zebra mussel to another area of the river free of zebra mussels. The following video elaborates on this process.

Where Higgins Eye Pearlymussels Live:   

Parts of the upper Mississippi River north of Lock and Dam 19 at Keokuk, Iowa and in three tributaries of the Mississippi River: the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Wisconsin River in Wisconsin, and the lower Rock River between Illinois and Iowa.

The Higgins eye has also been reintroduced into the Iowa River and WapsipiniconRiver in Iowa.

The current range is about 50% of the historic range (shown below in red), which extended as far south as St. Louis, Missouri and included several additional tributaries of the Mississippi River.

Range map courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Range map courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

What Higgins Eye Pearlymussels Eat:  

As currents flow over the mussels, they siphon water for microorganisms such as algae and bacteria, which they use as food.  This process is also very important in keeping the waterways clean.  

How Long Higgins Eye Pearlymussels Live:  Up to 50 years

How We Can All Help Higgins Eye Pearlymussels:   

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the following are best practices:

Protect water quality by minimizing use of lawn chemicals such as fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides.  Also, recycle used car oil and properly dispose of paint and other toxic household products.

When boating, please follow any rules established to prevent the spread of exotic pests like the zebra mussel.

Encourage and implement the use of agricultural practices that minimize the erosion of topsoil into rivers and streams and that moderate the flow of surface runoff – increased runoff from agricultural lands is an important factor in the increased rate of sedimentation in the Mississippi River.

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