West Forest students flex some mussels

West Forest High School students Dylan Saxton (left) and Destiny Ginnery (right) recently met Philip Mathias, an employee of Enviro Science Inc., which helped with the replacement of the bridge at Hunter Station. (Submitted photo)
From staff reports

Philip Mathias recently visited West Forest High School to give a presentation on the local mussel population. Mathias is an employee of Enviro Science Inc., which is based near Akron, Ohio.

Mathias was involved in the removal of endangered mussels prior to the construction of the new Hunter Station Bridge.

Students from the classes of Mrs. Druckemiller, Mr. Hale and Mr. Vincent were introduced to Mathias.

He showed the students a Power Point presentation on the life cycle of mussels and data of the populations that were relocated from the Allegheny River.

The students were able to examine different types of mussel shells. They learned that the larvae of mussels use fish as hosts.

Freshwater mussels are mollusks and are similar to their marine clam and oyster cousins. They have two shells connected by a hinge-like ligament.

Around the world, mussels live in a variety of freshwater habitats but are most prevalent in stream and rivers. They vary in their adult sizes from those as small as a thumbnail to others as big as a pie plate.

The wide variety of shapes and colors are reflected in species like purple wartyback, pink heelsplitter, and threeridge.

On the stream bottom, mussels are sometimes only noticeable by two small siphons, which are used to draw and expel water.

When quickly dislodged, a large muscular foot that is used to move amongst the stream bottom can be readily seen.