How Mussels Fool Fish Into Carrying Their Parasitic Babies
Unsuspecting fish get blasted in the face with gill-infesting spawn. Here's why.
It all begins with a flicker of movement as a crayfish scuttles across the riverbed. A smallmouth bass spies the commotion and swims down, thinking it can snag an easy lunch.
Then something strange happens. As the predator strikes, the crustacean erupts into a milky cloud. Gagging and coughing, the fish swims away, unaware that it’s just been infected with tens of thousands of parasitic spawn. (Read about "zombie" parasites that mind-control their hosts.)
Behold the diabolically clever life cycle of the rainbow mussel, which lives in U.S. rivers and streams.
You see, what the bass thought was a crayfish was actually a few flaps of fleshy "skin" that the mussel uses as a lure.
“The mimicry is just unbelievably good,” says