MONTEVIDEO -- Mussels don't win popularity contests for being cuddly or cute, but many species do come with some interesting names: Elephant ear, hickory nut, butterfly, Round pigtoe and elktoe among them.
Here are some other interesting facts:
- Some individual mussels can live 100 or more years. Their age can be determined by counting the rings on their shell, one per year, but a mussel can grow a second ring in one year, if disturbed.
- Mussels once were harvested in Minnesota for pearls, and later, to make buttons. They were also harvested so that their shells could be ground and inserted into live oysters to produce pearls.
- Minnesota no longer allows the harvest of mussels (with one exception on the Mississippi River) and people are urged to leave mussels as they find them in the water. Licensed anglers are allowed to collect up to 24 shells or 48 half-shells, but not living mussels.
- Mussels move by using their muscle or "foot'' to inch their way along.
- Minnesota mussels have probably found their way into many a home version of clam chowder, but it's probably not a good idea to consume them from some waters. Mussels will accumulate metals and other contaminants from the waters in which they feed.