Freshwater mussels (Unionoida) are globally threatened. The key to the development of effective conservation strategies for this group is to unravel their complicated life cycle, including the obligatory larva, which parasitizes the external tissues of fish. Artificial infestation was conducted for three fish species – Barbus barbus, Chondrostoma nasus, and Squalius cephalus – in order to study the prevalence, site, and intensity of infestation, in relation to the fish species and their individual body size. Fish gut contents were also examined, in order to analyse the possibility of glochidia consumption. Glochidia of Unio crassus are considered parasites of fish gills; however, this study revealed that U. crassus glochidia were attached to the fins of all the host species tested. The number of glochidia attached to C. nasus fins was four times higher than the number of glochidia attached to gills. The prevalence of fin infestation was higher for C. nasus and S. cephalus than for B. barbus. Infestation intensity was highest for C. nasus and lowest for B. barbus, and was also dependent on fin type. The number of glochidia attached to fins demonstrated a nonlinear (log10) relationship with fish body length. Inspection of dissected fish guts showed that all of the fish species tested foraged on glochidia: S. cephalus and B. barbus more frequently than C. nasus. Using predatory fish host species with non-predatory species in mixed assemblages for artificial rearing of mussels led to increased mortality of fish and decreased infestation intensity. The best conservation practices for freshwater mussels should therefore be based on single fish species that are easy to infest and that do not prey on glochidia.
Présence massive d'espèces envahissantes.