What is that glinting and sparkling under the gurgling current of the Rio Pine? They are giant clams on the half shell! The remnants of clam beds here on the Pine River remind us of the fragility of natures variety of species. Clams are high on Michigan's list of endangered creatures so much so that it is illegal to collect living specimens or even the shells of the deceased. In the Ohio river back in the 1850's a large pearl was discovered in a freshwater clam sparking the great Ohio pearl rush. It is reported that hundreds of thousands of live clams were destroyed in the fruitless search for pearls. In turn of the century America local rivers were scoured by clammers to support the multi million dollar button industry pushing our crustacean friends to the verge of extinction. Who wouldn't want fancy mother of pearl buttons adorning their pretty dresses or garish cowboy shirts? It is estimated that over 200 button factories flourished in 1912 gobbling upwards of 600 million clams a year! The providential intervention of no less a product than plastic eventually prevented that clam apocalypse but the fight for clam survival still goes on a hundred years later. Today the threats include pollution and the introduction of exotic species into the ecosystem like Loki, the clam collecting dog, who fortunately scavenges only spent shells. The pets owner is believed to be legally responsible for Loki's inexplicable behavior.
Clams can live a hundred years laying decade after decade in the same stretch of river adding band after band to the outside edge of their shells. Forty and fifty year old shells are commonly found near my home. But where are the young-ins? Like the plot of a science fiction story the elderly clams move toward the final outcome unable to reproduce as the population slowly diminishes. Sad,very sad. Where are the "Save the Clam" tee shirts and bumper stickers? Where is the uproar? Who will filter our water and preserve our river beds while elegantly creating a mother of pearl treasure trove?
I picture natures connectivity like a huge pile of pick up sticks with human kind yanking out stick after stick, each one representing a plant or animal taken out of the mix. Remove one and several fall. Clams are not petable, they won't lick your face when you come home from school or work and love you unconditionally but they are a part of our little world and once gone, the bell will toll, the jokers will laugh it off and the clock will tick one notch closer to midnight.