Plants and Animals

Venustaconcha ellipsiformis Ellipse

Key Characteristics

The ellipse is a small (to 3 inches) elliptical mussel with a relatively thick shell. The beaks are only slightly raised above the hinge line and the sculpturing consists of 3 to 4 concentric ridges drawn up in the middle. The lateral teeth are short, thick, and finely striated. The cardinal teeth are thick, triangular, and roughened. The shell is greenish-brown or yellowish-brown in color with wavy green rays on the posterior end. The nacre is bluish-white in the center and often tinged with a rusty salmon color.

Status and Rank

US Status:
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S3 - Vulnerable

Occurrences

CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Allegan12016
Barry32013
Berrien32009
Branch21930
Calhoun72015
Cass21930
Clinton32010
Eaton32015
Genesee1
Gladwin121981
Gratiot32015
Hillsdale11997
Ingham102018
Ionia102015
Isabella42015
Jackson112017
Kalamazoo22000
Kent102017
Leelanau12000
Livingston11959
Mecosta12015
Midland32015
Montcalm92015
Muskegon1
Ogemaw31981
Saginaw22011
Shiawassee52001
St. Joseph82016
Tuscola62011
Van Buren72009
Washtenaw12000

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.

Habitat

The ellipse occurs in the swift currents of riffles or runs of clear, small to medium sized streams in gravel or sand and gravel substrates.

Specific Habitat Needs

Gravel substrate needed in: Headwater Stream (1st-2nd order), RiffleHeadwater Stream (1st-2nd order), PoolHeadwater Stream (1st-2nd order), RunMainstem Stream (3rd-4th order), PoolMainstem Stream (3rd-4th order), RunMainstem Stream (3rd-4th order), Riffle.

Natural Community Types

  • Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), riffle
  • Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), pool
  • Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), run
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Like other mussels, threats to the ellipse include: natural flow alterations, siltation, channel disturbance, point and non-point source pollution, and exotic species. Maintenance or establishment of vegetated riparian buffers can help protect mussel habitats from many of their threats. Control of zebra mussels is critical to preserving native mussels. And as with all mussels, protection of their hosts habitat is also crucial.

Active Period

Survey Methods

Aqua-scope searches

Survey Period: From first week of April to first week of October

Snorkeling searches

Survey Period: From first week of April to first week of October

SCUBA searches

Survey Period: From first week of April to first week of October

References

Survey References

  • Cummings, K.S. and C.A. Mayer. 1992. Field Guide to Freshwater Mussels of the Midwest. Illinois Natural History Survey Manual 5, Champaign. 194pp.
  • Strayer, D.L. and D.R. Smith. 2003. A Guide to Sampling Freshwater Mussel Populations. American Fisheries Society Monograph 8, Bethesda. 103pp.

Technical References

  • Cummings, K.S. and C.A. Mayer. 1992. Field Guide to Freshwater Mussels of the Midwest. Illinois Natural History Survey Manual 5, Champaign. 194pp.
  • Oesch, R.D. 1984. Missouri Naiades: a Guide to the Mussels of Missouri. Conservation Commision of the State of Missouri, Jefferson City. 270pp.
  • Smith, P.W. 1971. Illinois streams: A classification based on their fishes and an analysis of factors responsible for the disappearance of native species. Illinois Natural History Survey Biological Notes 76: 1-14.