Some mussel species can use a variety of fish species as hosts, while others require specific hosts.
"The species-specific ones definitely complicate the process," Clayton explained. "When a host fish is commercially available -- bluegills, for example -- we just raise them in one of the state's hatcheries or go out and buy what we need.
"For other species, such as creek chubs and stonerollers, we go out and seine them from creeks. One mussel species, the pink heelsplitter, requires us to go out and capture freshwater drum. So even getting the fish hosts involves a lot of work."
Restoration efforts on the Ohio have centered on nine mussel species: three-ridge, Ohio pigtoe, pimpleback, maple leaf, washboard, black sandshell, sheepnose, pocketbook and fat mucket.
"So far we've had limited success with five of those species," Clayton said.
Four species -- the creeper, giant floater, fluted shell and fatmucket -- are being reintroduced to Dunkard Creek.
Collecting larvae from breeding mussels can involve some pretty precise timing.
"There are two basic types of mussels -- long-term brooders and short-term brooders," Clayton said.
"Long-term brooders hold their larvae for several months, so they're pretty easy to collect from. Short-term brooders aren't as easy.
"We know the general time frame when their larvae become mature, so we collect some adults, put them in containers and wait for them to release their larvae. When we see lots of mature larvae, we go out and collect more adults and continue the propagation process from there."
Sometimes, though, knowing the right time isn't enough.
"Last year, [streams'] water warmed so quickly that the mussels spawned early and we just about missed our first species," Clayton said. "This year was the opposite. We got very few larvae off our first species, and the water since then has been too high to collect more brood stock."
So why go to all this trouble to restore creatures many people are unaware even exist? In a word, ecology -- the way creatures interact with their environment. Clayton said mussels are important to streams' ecosystems because they filter impurities from the water.
"A bed containing 200,000 mussels can filter a million gallons of water a day," she said. Imagine how much money we could save in water-treatment costs if our native mussel communities were restored."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.