Editor's Note:  Owen Olbricht is a friend of ours who has lived and worked in New Jersey for many years before becoming a professor in Memphis.  Owen tells about working with a clam farmer in New Jersey and how one clam called the Missouri mussel reproduces.  Here is Owen's story.

The Missouri mussel shell presents a minnow-look-alike just outside its shell to attract bass.  This part of the mussel wiggles and mimics the action and appearance of a minnow.  The bass attacks it, but cannot remove it.  When the bass pulls on it, the clam releases eggs into the mouth of the bass.  These stay inside the bass where they are protected until they develop enough to survive outside the bass.  They then leave the inside of the bass and enter the bottom of the river where they mature to repeat the process.

Owen raises a lot of interesting questions about this situation.  The minnow-like appendage apparently has no other purpose than to attract this one species of fish.  There are fish in the ocean called angler fish that also do this, except their appendage looks like a worm and attracts all species of fish.  In this case, the appendage is designed to attract one species--the bass, which can harbor and take care of the clam's offspring.  How do the eggs avoid being digested by the bass?  Fish hooks left in a fish dissolve in a remarkably short time, and yet these eggs survive with no damage from the digestive system of the large fish.  There is no evidence that the bass is affected by this load of eggs it carries.

The advantages of this system are many.  It is an efficient way to allow the clam to reproduce.  Since bass cover large distances in their hunts for prey, the eggs get scattered all over the region in which they live.  Bass typically hunt in areas where the clams, when they are discharged from the mouth of the bass, have a high probability of survival.  Clams do a wonderful job of cleaning water and improving the ecology of the streams, oceans, and lakes in which they live.  This benefits the bass and all other forms of life in the area.

Bass nannies are just one more example of the complexity and design that is seen everywhere we look in nature.  The creation is not a chance driven accident, but a designed and intelligently planned system that sustains life in ways we are only beginning to understand.

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