Sentenced to Desk, Mussel
Granted Eleventh-Hour Pardon
Giant floater and paper pondshell
mussels. Photo by Perry Rech.
Inspecting a future restoration site
along the West Fork of the Chicago River in Glenview,
Friends of the Chicago River staffers Nathan Aaberg and
John Quail discovered a mussel they didn't recognize.
Judging it had passed on, Aaberg brought the mussel back
to the Friends office.
Aaberg later took the mussel to Roger
Klocek, senior conservation biologist at the John G. Shedd
Aquarium, who revealed that the specimen was the uncommon
pondhorn mussel, Uniomerus tetralasmus. To Aaberg's
surprise, Klocek called him two days later to say that the
pondhorn had recovered fully in Klocek's office aquarium.
This, despite the fact that it had spent the prior seven
days being shuffled between reports and memos on Aaberg's
"I've only seen one live example
from the streams I've sampled in northern Illinois, and
perhaps a half dozen dead examples," said Klocek.
"I'm pretty surprised, but happy, to see one in the
Chicago River." The pondhorn mussel has never been
recorded in the Chicago River. Its discovery suggests
a river regaining its health.
Friends staff and Klocek returned
to the West Fork on October 30 to release the pondhorn
and to search the river for other mussels. They found
several recently dead mussels (a giant floater, a squawfoot,
and a paper pondshell) as well as one live paper pondshell,
also a new Chicago River record. Friends and the Shedd
Aquarium hope to launch a comprehensive mussel survey
of the Chicago River in 2003.