A backpack-wearing mussel in the UI lab (Credit: University of Iowa)
University of Iowa researchers are gluing electronic monitoring “backpacks” to the shells of river mussels to learn more about the creatures’ filtration capabilities, The Gazette reported.
The backpack sensors measure gape, or the opening and closing of the shell. By measuring gape, the UI researchers can determine how much algae the mussels are filtering. Each backpack costs about $100.
Waterways with large mussel population tend to be cleaner than those without, but pollution and dredging have severely affected the mollusks’ numbers across Iowa and other states. The researchers plan to use their gathered data to gain support for habitat restoration in the state.
Image: A backpack-wearing mussel in the UI lab (Credit: University of Iowa)