We examined seasonal patterns of abundance of mussel larvae (glochidia) in stream drift in a diverse, large-stream mussel assemblage in the Sipsey River, Alabama, across 1 y. We used recently developed techniques for glochidial identification combined with information about mussel fecundity and benthic assemblages to evaluate how well observed glochidial abundance corresponded to expected abundance based on glochidial production. Glochidia from short-term brooding species (Amblema plicata, Elliptio arca, Fusconaia cerina, Pleurobema decisum, Obliquaria reflexa, and Quadrula asperata) were abundant from May to August but did not occur in drift between November and the end of April. Long-term brooders (Lampsilis spp., Medionidus acutissimus, Obovaria unicolor, and Villosa spp.) occurred in several short peaks in spring, summer, and autumn, but generally were less abundant than short-term brooders. We estimated that the benthic assemblage at our study site produced >500,000 glochidia/m2 annually and production varied widely among species. Abundance of species in the drift was positively related to benthic abundance but was only weakly related to glochidial production. The poor relationship between glochidial production and abundance in the drift suggests that release and transport of glochidia are influenced by a wide variety of abiotic and biotic factors.
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