James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, MSGeog, CNHG


Hooked Mussels attached to Oysters, Chesapeake Bay oyster-reef
(Chris Judy / Maryland Dep’t of Natural Resources photo)

And it shall come to pass, that everything that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall go, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall go there, for they shall be healed; and everything shall live where the river goes.   (Ezekiel 47:9)

Healthy rivers are a good thing. But sometimes a “hero” is needed, to clean up unhealthy rivers, or to “keep clean” rivers that will otherwise go bad.

Tough “clean-up” jobs, as well as “keep-it-clean” maintenance jobs, are often accomplished by unsung heroes. For example, the tough job of cleaning up water quality (and the job of maintaining water quality) in coastal wetlands requires some helpful muscles, such as those of the Chesapeake Bay’s mussels!  So, shouldn’t such helpful bivalves be given due credit, for what they do?

Mussels, once mostly ignored, are now being touted for their ability to clean streams much like oysters do for the Bay. Oysters are in many ways the restoration darlings of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort. Touted for multiple benefits — as edible, water-filtering moneymakers — oysters attract both enthusiasm and funding to promote their recovery.

But the popularity of oysters often overshadows the water-cleansing role of other filter feeders such as mussels. A growing group of mussel advocates think it’s high time that the bivalves share the spotlight as clean-water workhorses that can carry the message farther upstream.

 Projects to propagate mussels and restore them to waterways where they once thrived are cropping up in parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania as researchers working on them in various states begin to join efforts. The goal is to return some of the diversity once found in these waterways — mussel by mussel — so they can filter, feed, clean and otherwise serve the local ecosystem.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1 (October 2018).]

So, what service do mussels provide, such as the mussels which dwell in Chesapeake Bay watershed streams and estuarial wetlands?

Research in Chesapeake Bay shows that the mussels that typically colonize a restored oyster reef can more than double the reef’s overall filtration capacity. Filtering plankton helps improve water quality because these tiny drifting organisms thrive on the excess nitrogen and other nutrients that humans release into the Bay and its tributaries through farming, wastewater outflow, and the burning of fossil fuels. …

Restoring oysters — and their ability to filter large volumes of water — is widely seen as a key way to improve the health of Chesapeake Bay. New research makes this calculus even more appealing, showing that the mussels that typically colonize the nooks and crannies of a restored oyster reef can more than double its overall filtration capacity.

The study — by researchers at the University of Maryland, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science — appears as the cover story in the most recent issue of Restoration Ecology [i.e., Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (May 2014), DOI: 10.1111/rec.12107 ]

“Many efforts to restore coastal habitat focus on planting just one species, such as oysters, mangroves, or seagrass,” says [University of Maryland]’s Keryn Gedan, the study’s lead author. “However, our research shows that the positive effects of diverse ecosystems can be much greater. In the case of oyster reefs, commonly associated species such as mussels may multiply the water quality benefits of restoration by filtering more and different portions of the plankton.”

“Estimates of the ecosystem services provided by a restoration project are used to justify, prioritize, and evaluate such projects,” adds [Virginia Institute of Marine Science] scientist Lisa Kellogg. “By quantifying the significant role that mussels can play in filtration within an oyster-reef habitat, our work shows that the ‘return on investment’ for oyster-reef restoration is potentially much higher than commonly thought.”

Filtering plankton helps improve water quality [and thus functions as an “ecosystem engineer”  —  JJSJ comment] because these tiny drifting organisms thrive on the excess nitrogen and other nutrients that humans release into the Bay and its tributaries through farming, wastewater outflow, and the burning of fossil fuels.

“Filtering plankton from the water is the first step towards removing nutrients,” says Kellogg. “Although some will be returned to the water column, a significant portion will be removed from the system.” Removing plankton also has more direct benefits. Left unchecked, plankton can form dense blooms that shade other aquatic plants such as seagrass, and can lead to low-oxygen “dead zones” when they die, sink, and decay.

The research team, which also included SERC’s Denise Breitburg, based their findings on a combination of laboratory experiments and computer modeling. In the lab, they added phytoplankton of different size classes to tanks containing eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) or hooked mussels (Ischadium recurvum), then measured the animals’ filtration rates at different temperatures. They then incorporated these measured rates into a simple model and used that to simulate overall filtration for three different restoration scenarios in Harris Creek, Maryland, one of the East Coast’s largest oyster-reef restoration sites.

Kellogg’s main contribution to the paper was data on the relative abundance of oysters, mussels, and other organisms inhabiting restored oyster reefs collected during her time as a post-doctoral researcher at Maryland’s Horn Point Lab. These data, which showed that the biomass of mussels on a restored reef can equal or exceed that of the oysters, were used as baselines for the model projections.

The results of that modeling were clear. “On average,” says Gedan, “adding filtration by hooked mussels into our model increased the filtration capacity of the reef by more than two-fold.”

Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton,” says Breitburg. Picoplankton are the smallest category of marine plankton, ranging from about 1.5 to 3 microns (a human red blood cell is about 5 microns across). Picoplankton are particularly abundant in Chesapeake Bay during summer, with an earlier study from the York River showing they can make up nearly 15% of phytoplankton “biomass” during the warmer months.

“Some have suggested that oyster reef restoration will be less effective than expected in controlling phytoplankton populations because of oysters’ inability to filter picoplankton,” says Kellogg. “Our discoveries with mussels lessen that concern.”

“The mussels’ ability to filter the picoplankton indicates that they fill a distinct ecological niche,” adds Gedan. “Accounting for both oyster and mussel filtration, large-scale restoration projects like those going on in Chesapeake Bay could significantly control phytoplankton, especially during the summer months, when animals filter the most.”

The bottom line, says Gedan, is that “estimates of the ecosystem services provided by just the oysters on an oyster reef may vastly underrepresent the reefs’ overall contribution. Because oyster reefs also contain many other filter-feeding species, they will likely benefit water quality much more than previous modeling efforts suggest.” Kellogg is now taking this line of research further, studying how another common oyster-reef inhabitant — an organism called a tunicate — might also contribute to gains in water quality. Tunicates, fleshy animals also known as sea squirts, filter plankton and other particles from the water similarly to oysters and mussels.

[Quoting Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “Study Puts Some Mussels into Chesapeake Bay Restoration”, 9-8-AD2014, at ScienceDaily.com posting https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140908121538.htm .]

Summarized in technical ecology lingo, the researchers abstract their findings on mussel filter-cleaning as follows:

Many coastal habitat restoration projects are focused on restoring the population of a single foundation species to recover an entire ecological community. Estimates of the ecosystem services provided by the restoration project are used to justify, prioritize, and evaluate such projects. However, estimates of ecosystem services provided by a single species may vastly under‐represent true provisioning, as we demonstrate here with an example of oyster reefs, often restored to improve estuarine water quality.

In the brackish Chesapeake Bay, the hooked mussel Ischadium recurvum can have greater abundance and biomass than the focal restoration species, the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica. We measured the temperature‐dependent phytoplankton clearance rates of both bivalves and their filtration efficiency on three size classes of phytoplankton to parameterize an annual model of oyster reef filtration, with and without hooked mussels, for monitored oyster reefs and restoration scenarios in the eastern Chesapeake Bay.

The inclusion of filtration by hooked mussels increased the filtration capacity of the habitat greater than 2fold. Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton (1.5–3 µm), indicating that they fill a distinct ecological niche by controlling phytoplankton in this size class, which makes up a significant proportion of the phytoplankton load in summer.

When mussel and oyster filtration are accounted for in this, albeit simplistic, model, restoration of oyster reefs in a tributary scale restoration is predicted to control 100% of phytoplankton during the summer months.

[Quoting Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (May 2014), DOI: 10.1111/rec.12107 ]

Wow! Good for the Eastern Oysters, for their work in filter-cleaning Chesapeake Bay estuarial picoplankton, yet compliments also to the Hooked Mussels for their respective contributions to the clean-up work!  (This illustrates good teamwork!)

But it’s not just the brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay wetlands that host mussels. (Thus, there are other waters that benefit from mussel cleaning.)  In fact, mussels often thrive in riverine freshwater habitats other than those which limnologists would classify as “coastal wetlands”.


Texas Freshwater Mussel life cycle   (Texas Parks & Wildlife Dep’t image)

In Texas, for example, freshwater mussels are both plentiful and diverse, living in both lotic (running) and lentic (standing) bodies of water.

Freshwater mussels may inhabit a variety of water-body types including large and small rivers and streams, lakes, ponds, canals, and reservoirs. More stable habitats may have larger and more diverse populations than do smaller and less stable waters.  Some species tolerate a wide variety of conditions [e.g., various bottom types, currents, water depths, water pH and other chemistry factors, water clarity, amount of sunlight, turbidity, aquatic vegetation, percentage of dissolved oxygen saturation, water temperature, biotic community make-up, etc.], but others may be more specific.  Certain mussels may require moderate to swiftly flowing waters, and typically fail to survive in lakes or impoundments.

Headwater spring pools and streams in Texas Hill Country typically harbor few if any mussels largely because the cool, clear waters lack sufficient phytoplankton and other foods needed to support mussel populations. A few species like pondhorns (Uniomerus spp.) occur in temporary ponds and periodically-dry portions of intermittent streams by burrowing into the substrate during dewatering.

[Quoting Robert G. Howells, Raymond W. Neck, & Harold D. Murray, FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF TEXAS (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries Division, 1996), page 14.]

In Texas, for instance, freshwater mussels —  especially dozens of varieties of unionid mussels (freshwater-dwelling mollusk bivalves a/k/a “naiads”)  —  have flourished for centuries in the enormously biodiverse bayou-waters of Caddo Lake, Texas’ sole “natural lake” (which borders Louisiana).

However, freshwater mussels have also been studied in these major river systems of the Lone Star State:

Canadian River (only slim pickings in these Panhandle-traversing waters); Red River (serving as the Texas-Oklahoma border to Arkansas, swelling at the artificially expanded Lake Texoma, favoring mussel populations including unionids such as pondshell, pondhorn, and yellow sandshell, as well as some clams);

Sulphur River (a Red River tributary, once intensively fished for mussels);

Big Cypress Bayou (a tributary of Caddo Lake, once fished for mussel pearls);

Sabine River (flowing to Texas’ border with Louisiana, then into the Gulf of Mexico, once intensively fished for mussels);

Neches River, including its tributary Angelina River (flowing through Texas piney woodlands, with no recent major harvesting of mussels);

Trinity River, flowing into Trinity Bay (pollution has been a historic problem, killing off mussel populations, though some unionids are observed within Lake Lewisville, an artificially formed reservoir-tributary of the Trinity River drainage system);

San Jacinto River (flowing north of Houston, draining into Trinity Bay, hosting washboard and threeridge mussels – as evidence by mussels stranded in dewatered areas during droughts);

Brazos River (Texas’ longest river between the Red River and the Rio Grande, hosting unionids in its tributary Navasota River);

Colorado River (containing unionid mussels in several of its tributaries);

Lavaca River (no significant mussels observed);

Guadalupe River, with its primary tributary San Antonio River, plus other tributaries including Blanco River and San Marcos River (sporadically hosting washboards and other river mussels);

Nueces River (flowing into Nueces Bay, with muddier tributaries hosting some mussels); and the Rio Grande, including its tributary Pecos River (separating Texas from Mexico, and variously hosting some unionid mussels).

[For specific biogeography details, see Howells, Neck, & Murray, FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF TEXAS, pages 29-32.]

The water-filtering benefits of wetland mussels are worthy of appreciation; however, not every impact of mussels is advantageous, as is illustrated by the invasive (and pervasive) nuisance known as the non-unionid Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha).  The miniscule Zebra Mussel is not covered as a topic, here, except to notice that it has caused a lot of disturbing and non-miniscule impacts in many freshwater lakes of America and Europe, from one water-body to another, due to over-land transport as attachments to the hulls of recreational boats.  [Regarding Zebra Mussel nuisance impacts, see Winfried Lampert & Ulrich Sommer, LIMNOECOLOGY: THE ECOLOGY OF LAKES AND STREAMS, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2010), pages 123 & 224-225.]

Freshwater mussels come in all shapes and sizes, with nicknames that indicate their unique forms or textures, such as snuffbox, spectacle-case, pimple-back and pistol-grip. Most live in rivers or streams, some others in lakes and ponds, but all rely on a current of water to provide phytoplankton and bacteria that they filter-feed from the water. Some species can live to be more than 100 years old. They also have a complex life cycle that makes them difficult — but not impossible — to reproduce in hatcheries. Most need a fish to act as a host as they start their life: The larvae find shelter and grow in fish gills until they can navigate the waters on their own. Some mussels create lures to draw in their preferred host, and some clamp onto the fish with trap-like mouths. If the fish species preferred by a certain mussel disappears, the mussel does, too.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

In order to analyze the benefits of coastal wetland mussels, such as those which are quietly filter-cleaning wetland waters within the Chesapeake Bay drainage watershed, someone needs to carefully study them.

But, since most of these mollusks are not commercially exploited, who will pay for the scientific research on these humble bivalves?

Other parts of the country, such as the Tennessee River system and Delaware Bay, have seen the fruit that comes from investing in mussel propagation and research. Meanwhile, mussels have often fallen below the radar of Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. That may be because freshwater mussels, unlike oysters or some saltwater mussels, don’t end up on human plates.

Research and restoration funding is harder to come by, even though three-quarters of freshwater mussel species are considered to be at some level of impairment. The money often comes in an off-and-on fashion from mitigation payments for environmental disasters and permit renewals, and partners in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort community have not focused their resources on mussels. … Many of the mussel advocates who gathered along the James River in July first interacted with the mollusks outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed — in the Clinch River, which rises in the southwest corner of Virginia and flows into Tennessee. The Clinch River is home to most of Virginia’s 81 mussel species, more than a third of which are endangered. The diversity of mussels found there has made the river a hotspot for research nationally. …

The Harrison Lake facility [i.e., the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, located along the James River south of Richmond, Virginia – an activity of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior], built in the 1930s to support recreational fisheries, now has the capacity to grow tens of millions of mussels. Over the last decade, the facility transitioned from a focus on migratory fish species such as American shad to also growing tiny glochidia, the name for larval-stage mussels, into young mollusks.

When Dominion’s Bremo Power Station renewed its water discharge permit, the hatchery got more than a half-million dollars from the deal after a threatened mussel was found to be impacted by its discharge. When DuPont had to pay $42 million to settle a case over mercury contamination of the South River, the hatchery got $4 million. The coal ash spill in the Dan River in 2014 brought in additional funds to help replenish mussel species that might have been lost.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

HarrisonLake-hatchery-sign.USFWSThe Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery employs a staff of five – and their aquaculture efforts are producing results.

The hatchery team used to release tiny mussels into portions of the James watershed and hope for the best. Now, the staff has the technology to grow them “almost indefinitely” at the facility to a large enough size that they have much better survival rates in the wild. The center propagates the mussels by collecting female mussels that already have larvae in their gills, which the staff either extracts with a needle (to mimic a fish rubbing against it) or allows the mussel to release. Placed into tanks with their host fish, the larvae will attach to the fish before dropping off two to four weeks later to continue feeding and growing in a series of tanks. The lab is also working on in vitro fertilization for mussel species whose host fish is not known.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

In order to track progress, regarding the future growth and activities of mussels released to “the wild”, the hatchery uses a monitoring system that is analogous to bird-banding  —  the hatchery laser-etches identifying code markings onto the shell of a mussel, before release.  Also, some rare mussels receive special tagging.

At the hatchery, in a squat building paid for by the Bremo mitigation funds, biological science technician Bryce Maynard demonstrated methods used to tag and track the progress of mussels grown here before being launched into wild waters. He flipped the switch on a laser engraver that can carve numbers into several rows of mussels at a time, leaving a burnt-hair smell in the air and marking thousands of mussels a day for future tracking. Among the hatchery mussels are rare species such as the James spinymussel, which was once abundant in the James River upstream of Richmond but disappeared from most of its range by the late 1980s. The hatchery-raised spinymussels are marked with tags sealed in place with dental cement. The tags can be located later with a beeping detector but are costlier than other tracking methods.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

So what is the main benefit expected from these costly investment? Besides overall enhancing of the coastal wetland ecosystems, water filtering is expected, since that is what mussels are famous for.

Every mussel that finds its way into the watershed and survives could help filter about 10 liters of water per day, said Danielle Kreeger, senior science director at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, where she’s become an advocate for the potential of what she calls the #mightymussel.  “Pound for pound, freshwater mussels are not slouches,” she said  …  “To me, every mussel is precious, and we need to protect them.”  Kreeger, in the coming months, will be completing a review of studies on the ability of such bivalves to enhance water quality, which she hopes will shore up the amount of data available about mussels’ benefits.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

To be clear, the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery is not limited to hatching mussels for the Chesapeake Bay’s tributary waters.

In fact, the USF&W operation there is, as one would expect, focused largely on piscatorial aquaculture, i.e., hatching fish, especially American Shad, as well as some alewife, blueback herring, hickory shad, and striped bass. [See “Harrison Lake national Fish Hatchery”, https://www.fws.gov/harrisonlake/ summary by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.]

But for now, the take-away lesson is an appreciation for mussels: they are a lot more important than most of us think they are.


Harrison Lake Nat’l Fish Hatchery: fish hosts carrying mussel larvae    (B. Davis / USF&WS photo)

But why are they, as Dr. Kreeger says, “precious”? Because God created them  —  it was God Who gave Chesapeake Bay mussels, as well as Texas riverine mussels, their intrinsic value.  As God’s creatures they display His workmanship – God’s creative bioengineering is exhibited (“plainly seen”) in all animals, including humble mussels.

Accordingly, as some of the many (albeit small and usually unseen) creatures whom God chose to create (and to “fill” diverse wetland habitats), mussels deserve due credit, for doing what God has programmed them to do, including filter-cleaning wetland waters.

So, good for the mussels, good for the water supply, and that’s all good for us —  and therefore we should give glory unto God, because God is due credit for making estuarial and river-dwelling mussels what they are.                               ><> JJSJ  profjjsj@aol.com

Dr. James J. S. Johnson freely admits that his appreciation for mussels did not begin with learning about how they contribute to filter-cleaning estuarial waters, but rather from his eating lots of tasty blue mussels when visiting New England.

Dr. Konrad Gessner, 16th-Century Creation Scientist

Dr. Konrad Gessner, 16th-Century Creation Scientist

James J. S. Johnson

For the invisible things of Him [i.e., God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and deity, so that they are without excuse.   (Romans 1:20)


Dr. Konrad Gessner (also spelled “Conrad Gesner”), who lived from AD1516 to AD1565, was a true Reformation-grounded biologist and ecologist, as well as an accomplished intellectual in other fields. Gessner was born and originally educated in Zürich, Switzerland, the Protestant city pastored first by Ulrich Zwingli, then next by Heinrich Bullinger (a personal friend of Gessner). During AD1532-1536 he studied at various universities in Strasbourg, Bourges, and Basel.

In AD1537 he taught as professor of Greek in Lausanne, yet soon afterwards began science studies leading to a Medical Doctor’s degree in AD1541 (in Basel). Returning to Zürich, he taught science there for most of the rest of his life. Dr. Gessner authored scholarly works on various subjects, such as:

  • botanical studies (including subalpine flowers) in AD1541, with more in AD1542;
  • a bibliographic encyclopedia of world literature in AD1545, with supplements in AD1548-1549;
  • zoological studies (mammals, birds, fishes, etc.) in AD1551-1558;
  • comparative language studies (on 22 translations of The Lord’s Prayer) in AD1555;
  • doxological mountain hiking, mixed with montane ecology, in AD1555.

Dr. Gessner’s research on snakes and insects was published posthumously. In AD1541, Gessner resolved to climb at least one mountain each year, a habit he thereafter maintained.

Mountain-hiking to Dr. Gessner, as a true biblical creationist, was a joy and an opportunity to appreciate God’s creative glory in nature.

Of special importance to creation geologists, such as William Hoesch (who is quoted below), Dr. Gessner also wrote on fossils (see article quoted below), refusing to accept the faddish contra-biblical fossil theory of his generation:

The history of thinking about fossils is a study in worldviews. Conrad Gesner of Zurich (1516-1565) is considered by some the greatest naturalist of his century. His book, On Fossil Objects, in many ways reflects his Protestant upbringing. The fact that he lost his father in armed combat between Catholics and Protestants in 1531 reminds us that this was a time when it was costly to believe. Gesner’s close friend growing up was none other than Heinrich Bullinger, one of the most influential Christian figures of his century. Gesner’s interest in science led him to universities at a time when Renaissance humanism was the dominant worldview. In his work on fossils, his Protestant upbringing shines through in some interesting ways.

First, Gesner placed great emphasis on firsthand observation which can be seen in his detailed woodcut illustrations of fossils. In this, he broke with the Renaissance tradition of science, placing the opinions of the “Ancients” (Aristotle, etc.) above that of observation. Gesner reversed this. At the time, it was not at all obvious that marine-looking fossils found in stone far from the sea were the remains of once living organisms. Neoplatonism held that the funny fossil shapes were controlled by mysterious astral influences, and Aristotelianism attributed marine-looking fossils to the transport of “seeds” of ocean-dwelling organisms that got carried inland and grew in place after lodging in the cracks. Gesner made no effort to challenge these teachings, but in comparing side-by-side quality woodcut illustrations of living marine organisms with marine-looking fossils, he helped to move thinking toward an organic interpretation of fossils. Firsthand observation is an essential step in “taking dominion over nature” that is mandated in Scripture, and Gesner seemed to manifest this.

Second, Gesner took a peculiar delight in the study of nature. When he considered the minerals and gems which were at that time considered in the category of “fossils,” he was transfixed by the thought that these were earthly reminders of the jeweled City of Jerusalem. An accomplished physician, he delighted in hiking the Swiss Alps where he sought to catalog botanicals for their potential medicinal use. It was considered odd at this time to “enjoy” nature, but Gesner is hailed by some today as the father of recreational hiking! Despite nature’s fallen condition, he was able to “see” the invisible things of God and His attributes (Romans 1:20). The level of delight Gesner took in nature cannot be credited to his Neoplatonic or Aristotelian training. It is as if he saw all of nature as a divine revelation.

The considered wisdom of “the Ancients,” that fossils grew in place, was ultimately an article of pagan philosophy. Gesner, and others who followed, helped to change the thinking process. Early church fathers like Tertullian actually had it right; they understood an organic origin for fossils. For them, to get the remains of marine creatures high on the hills required an unusual agency—it obviously took a global Flood! Although long forgotten, and requiring thinking big about earth history, this teaching of a global Flood would return in the seventeenth century and play a key role in returning science to a solid foundation. 

[Quoting William Hoesch, “Fossil Political Correctness in the Sixteenth Century,” Acts & Facts / Back to Genesis (January 2007).]


Don’t expect a lot of pop-culture applause for Dr. Gessner, though —  because he glorified God in his Protestant Reformation-informed scholarship.  Thus, unlike many secular scientists who accomplished much less, Gessner’s work is mostly ignored.  However, God has not ignored Dr. Gessner’s reverent and careful creation research and scholarship  —  because God gives credit where credit is due (Romans 13:7), regardless of whether the truth is popular!  Meanwhile, God’s glory as the Creator is “clearly seen” everywhere.

<> JJSJ    profjjsj@aol.com


Seafood Apologetics: Mussels, Shrimp, and Malt Vinegar

Seafood Apologetics: Mussels, Shrimp, and Malt Vinegar

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.  And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.  Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.  But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.’   (Genesis 9:1-4)

God’s bioengineering genius is “clearly seen” in the everyday details of all of His diverse creatures, including the diverse (and sometimes bizarre) variety of creatures He has put into and on the tidewater edges of Earth’s oceans and seas.(1)

Eating seafood reminded me of this, recently—mussels, shrimp, and a little malt vinegar—three edible witnesses against evolution.  In other words, eating seafood can remind us of creation apologetics evidences.

Mussels provide fossilized evidence of the cataclysmic Genesis Flood, as noted below. Vinegar is good when used carefully, but the idea of vinaigrette soup (or any other kind of soup), accidently morphing into whip-scorpions, only occurs in evolutionist fantasies. Also, shrimp populations, like Carbon-14 inside dinosaur bones, are often found in places where they weren’t expected.  Details follow.


Don’t eat mussels if their shells are closed.

Picture a plate of seafood pasta, ringed with boiled mussels, posited like numbers on a clock-face. Which mussels should you eat? Only eat those with open shells; they were fresh-caught and thoroughly boiled—now safe to eat.

But what about mussels (and other bivalves) buried in the Genesis Flood? Here is a salient insight from Dr. David Rosevear:

On the beach one can see lots of bivalve shells, open like a butterfly’s extended wings. At death, the muscle holding the shells closed relaxes, and the two halves spread apart. Fossil bivalves are different. Their shells are tightly shut. They were buried alive. That process was instantaneous.(2)

Don’t eat closed-shell mussels!  Either they weren’t cooked right, or they were catastrophically quick-buried and fossilized!


Careless use of vinegar is not helpful.

Some folks like to squirt vinegar onto their finfish, shellfish, “chips”, and/or other food; others prefer squeezing lemon juice.(3)

Either way, be careful!   —   misdirected squirts of vinegar (or lemon juice) can hit clothing, skin, or eyes. Vinegar on the fingers can cause trouble, too, especially if wet fingers are carelessly used to wipe eyes. But, used carefully, vinegar is good, as when an ingredient in hot-and-sour soup.(4) But not all “soups” are real.

Evolutionists expect us to believe that all life on Earth accidently assembled itself, like magic, inside a “warm little pond”, a “primordial soup” with all the needed biochemical ingredients.(5)

After innumerable entropy-defying biochemical “lucky accidents”,(5) they say, the “soup” ingredients magically morphed into self-replicating cells, and later into frogs, princes, and every other creature—including whip-scorpion vinegaroons that squirt out super-vinegar!(6)  [This “genes-in-magic” is attributed to a mystical spirit-like force called “natural selection” — yet unthinking atoms cannot “select” anything, ever!]


If you don’t expect to find shrimp, you probably won’t look for them.

Dr. Johan Hjort was a trail-blazing ecologist who researched cold-water fishery populations (cod, herring, shrimp). In 1898, after modifying a deep-sea fishing trawl, Hjort found large populations of Great Northern Prawn (Pandalus borealis) in muddy sediments below Norwegian fjords. Because those shrimp were deemed “rare” and commercially irrelevant, Hjort’s reports were ignored. To refute his naysayers, Hjort chose actions over words: “[Hjort] went prawn fishing, returned to harbor with a spectacular catch and dumped it on the quay.”(7)

Finding huge populations of Pandalus borealis, then, is like finding Carbon-14 residues in dinosaur bones, today. There it is, waiting to be noticed!—“young” radiocarbon inside “ancient” dinosaur bones, an evolutionist’s nightmare!(8)

So even seafood can prompt us to think about creation apologetics evidences:

(a) mussels (or clams) remind us that the Flood was cataclysmic, not tranquil;

(b) vinegar reminds us that vinegaroons (and all other life-forms) were carefully created by God, not magical offspring of a “primordial soup”; and

(c) cold-water shrimp remind us that reality doesn’t disappear just because we aren’t looking at it—the real truth about God’s creation is “clearly seen”!(1) — but we must examine the evidence, whether it’s shrimp or C-14 in Triceratops bones.

Bon appétit!


VINEGAROON WHIP-SCORPION (photo credit: Things Biological blog)


(1) Romans 1:20.

(2) David Rosevear, “Deep Time”, Creation Science Movement Pamphlet # 411 (August 2018), pages 2-3.

(3) Ruth 2:14.

(4) Susanna Foo, Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), pages 82-83.

(5) James J. S. Johnson, “Infinite Time Won’t Save Evolution”, Acts & Facts, 47(6):21 (June 2018), at http://www.icr.org/article/infinite-time-wont-rescue-evolution .

(6) Vinegaroon whip-scorpions (Mastigoproctus giganteus) expel 85% acetic acid spray, much stronger than ordinary vinegar, which is only about 5%-to-8% acetic acid in water. In America’s Southwest, vinegaroons have been treated with due respect for generations, by young and old alike.  Alma Abernathy, Bud and Me: The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys (Dove Creek Press, 1998), pages 25 & 31.

(7) A. C. Hardy. 1950. “Johan Hjort: 1869-1948”, Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 7(19):167-181.  See also, Vera Schwach, “A Sea Change:  Johan Hjort and the Natural Fluctuations in the Fish Stocks”, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 71(8):1993-1999 (October 2014), published by International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

(8) See Brian Thomas, “Carbon-14 Found in Dinosaur Fossils, ICR Creation Science Update (7-6-2015), citing Brian Thomas & Vance Nelson, “Radiocarbon in Dinosaur and Other Fossils”, Creation Research Society Quarterly, 51(4): 299-311 (spring 2015). Evolutionists, for generations, assumed that dinosaur bones are too old to have any measurable Carbon-14, so they don’t look at how much has always been there, exhibiting that dinosaurs died rather recently, not millions of years ago.  In fact, using conventional Carbon-14 radiometric dating analysis,  radiocarbon chemists have been famously wrong at dating skeletal bones of Vikings who died as recently as the late 800s A.D.!  See James J. S. Johnson, “Viking Bones Contradict Carbon-14 Assumptions”,  Acts & Facts, 47(5):21 (May 2018), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/viking-bones-contradict-c14-assumptions/ .




Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.   (Genesis 1:21-22)


Chesapeake Bay oysters   (photo credit: Emaze.com)

 Chesapeake Bay oysters are ecologically resourceful, especially when it comes to homesteading underwater – and we should not be surprised.

But why? God prioritized animals, all over the world, to “be fruitful”, to “multiply”, and to “fill the earth”.

God chose to fill the earth with different kinds of life. All over the world, we see His providence demonstrated in ecological systems. Different creatures live in a variety of habitats, interacting with one another and a mix of geophysical factors—like rain, rocks, soil, wind, and sunlight.

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “God Fitted Habitats for Biodiversity”, ACTS & FACTS, 42(3):10-12 (March 2013).]

Because God loves variety, the earth itself has a diversity of habitats that can provide niches for animals to live in.

Accordingly, God “fitted” (i.e., designed and bioengineered) the internal programming of diverse animals to creatively adjust to miscellaneous habitats. In other words, diverse animals are “fitted to fill” different geophysical environments, which are themselves dominated by different types of plants, and the results are interactive and changing communities of lifeforms, adjusted to living in ecologically diverse “neighborhoods”.


Chesapeake Bay oyster-bed   (photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

To illustrate, check out what is happening with Chesapeake Bay oysters, especially those which are “homesteading” on artificial “reef” platform-beds.

An unremarkable thing happened in a remarkable way during the recently ended oyster season in the Chesapeake Bay. Some Virginia watermen harvested bivalves from public oyster grounds in the Rappahannock River. There’s nothing unusual about that, of course, but these shellfish had settled as baby “spat” and grown to harvestable size on a thick bed of gravel-sized stones that had been put on the river bottom to provide an unconventional home for them.

Typically, shells of other oysters are the natural landing pads for recently hatched bivalve larvae, which need to attach to something hard as they begin sedentary lives of filtering algae from the water. But the Chesapeake is running short on [bivalve] shells; there aren’t enough to go around to sustain the traditional wild [oyster or clam] fishery — to say nothing of the growing aquaculture industry and an ambitious effort to restore the Bay’s depleted oyster [and clam] population.

Some watermen, particularly those in Maryland, remain leery of using anything other than oyster shells to provide habitat for bivalves.

But the shell squeeze is prompting some oyster growers and fishery managers to try alternative “substrate,” the hard [platform-like] material on which baby bivalves live and grow. Working with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, W. E. Kellum Seafood, one of the state’s oldest and largest oyster businesses, has in the last few years tested the suitability of crushed concrete from a demolished bridge and ground-down stones taken from a dam on the James River.

“This past season, the oysters we harvested were from 2-year-old granite we planted,” said Tommy Kellum, the company president. “That worked extremely well. We got a terrific spat set on it, and it grew well.”

In the right conditions, oysters will settle and grow on practically any hard surface, not just other oyster shells. Bivalves can be found clinging to wooden docks, concrete bridge piers and riprap, the big granite rocks lining the shore to prevent erosion.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):12 (June 2017).]

Does that mean that artificial oysterbed planting is “better” than the “natural” habit these bivalves have, of attaching themselves to oyster shells produced by prior generations?


Probably not, but (as Francis Schaeffer repeatedly reminded us) we live in a “fallen world”  — so we need to “make the best of what we have”, in order to be good stewards of God’s creation.  And that stewardship can apply to oyster-bed aquaculture resourcefulness.  (Just as careful ranchers can raise healthy cattle or sheep, careful aquaculture “farmers” can raise healthy bivalves.)

Some watermen, particularly those in Maryland, remain leery of using anything other than oyster shells to provide habitat for bivalves. Maryland watermen and their supporters have protested the use of crushed granite, fossil shell from Florida and clam shells from New Jersey in oyster restoration projects . . . [and their] protests landed on sympathetic ears at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which blocked the further use of such materials in the Tred Avon [River, a tributary of the Choptank River, which is the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary on the Delmarva Peninsula]. The watermen argued that the rocks interfere with crabbing and fishing. Based on their experience, they say, oysters will not settle and grow nearly as well on substitute materials as they will on shells. Some also noted that the Florida fossil shell used in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank was full of water-fouling silt. “I think you should use the natural stuff that the good Lord put there,” said Ron Fithian, a Kent County commissioner and former waterman who is a member of Maryland’s Oyster Advisory Commission. “Nothing works better, and they shouldn’t substitute anything, especially stone. …You don’t get the concentration of spat on stones you do on oyster shell.”

Scientists and other proponents of the rock and concrete alternatives acknowledge that oyster shells are optimal, but they insist there’s just not enough fresh shell to go around — thanks to the decades-long slump in the oyster industry, which rebounded a bit several years ago. To make up for the shortage of fresh shells from harvested oysters, many watermen are pressing for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to permit the [Maryland Department of Natural Resources] to dredge 5 million bushels of fossil shell from an inactive oyster reef near the mouth of the Patapsco River called Man O’War Shoal. The proposal is opposed, though, by conservationists, recreational fishermen and even some watermen, who fear dredging up the old shell will ruin the shoal’s value as habitat for striped bass and other species. . . . [Balancing an ecosystem is tricky, of course – it’s really hard to please everybody!] Watermen have also pushed for the state to resume the taxpayer-subsidized “shell repletion” program it ran from the early 1960s until 2006, planting shell on the bottom and “seeding” it with juvenile oysters transplanted from areas getting good natural spat set.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):12 (June 2017), with emphases added.]


Scattering oyster shells, for reuse by oyster larvae (photo credit: PBS)

Ironically, the concrete and gravel “reef” platform-beds are working out quite well, which proves the resourcefulness of the juvenile oysters that attach there.

“Just about anything that is hard would work,” . . . said [said Andrew Button, head of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s shellfish conservation and replenishment department]. “Everything, from shredded tires to ‘recycled bathroom fixtures’, has been tried, with some success, by someone at some point.” Watermen and others have expressed concern that concrete from roads and other demolished structures might be contaminated with oil and other hazardous substances, which could be picked up by oysters and other marine life.

But in one recent study, Morgan State University researchers found no cause for concern. The Maryland State Highway Administration, looking for alternatives to landfilling old pavement, contracted with Morgan a few years ago to evaluate the feasibility and safety of using it in building oyster reefs. Morgan scientists placed chunks of recycled concrete aggregate in tanks of Bay water at the university’s Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory in Calvert County. They compared oyster spat survival on both concrete and shells and found no difference. They also tested for chemicals that might leach into the water — and subjected it to even more rigorous analysis with a mass spectrometer. “There was less [pollution] in it than the EPA required of drinking water — orders of magnitude less,” said Kelton Clark, director of the Patuxent lab.

The researchers also set up demonstration reefs using the recycled highway concrete in two locations with different water salinity — one in the Patuxent River near the laboratory and the other in Fishing Bay on the Eastern Shore — to see if oysters on rubble would be any more vulnerable to predators.

Again, no difference. There was one test that the highway debris flunked, when compared to shells: the hand-tonging test. Clark said researchers invited a hand-tonger to try harvesting the oysters growing on the concrete. The fist-sized chunks of rubble proved too heavy to lift using the tongs.

But for building oyster habitat in sanctuaries not open to harvest, Clark said, it’s just as good as the scarce shell. “It may not be acceptable to you or me, but the Chesapeake Bay doesn’t care what we like,” Clark said. “There’s no scientific reason not to use this material.”

In another study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the University of Maryland teamed up to see how alternative substrate performs in the Bay. In 2011, the Corps built seven reefs out of granite in the Cook Point sanctuary in the Choptank River, where the bottom consisted of sand, an area of flat shell and some large mounds of shells. The granite reefs placed nearby ranged in height from 1–3 feet off the bottom; some were covered with a layer of shells, while others were not. The artificial reefs were planted with oyster spat produced by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science hatchery at Horn Point. After three years, UM researchers analyzed the growth, survival and reproduction of the oyster populations in the area, and also checked for other organisms living on or around the reefs. They found more oysters on reefs made of both granite and shell than on those built of granite only, but both types had relatively healthy densities, averaging 91 oysters per square meter and 49 oysters per square meter, respectively. The granite-only reefs did have thicker populations of organisms such as anemones, which researchers suggested could be competing with oysters for space on the rocks.

Most of the artificial reefs built in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank River as part of those sanctuary restoration projects are too new yet to evaluate their performance as hosts for oysters, but preliminary analysis of reefs finished three years ago in Harris Creek shows that those with a stone base have nearly three times the density of oysters, on average, as those with a base made up of clam shells. All were planted with spat on shell produced by the UM hatchery.

Scientists say the shape and size of the materials used can matter in determining how well oyster spat settle and survive on artificial reefs. The granite stones used to build reefs in Harris Creek, for instance, have more than three times as much surface area as do the reefs made of clam shells. That’s important, according to Jay Lazar, field operations coordinator for NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay office, because it gives oyster spat more places to latch onto as they settle to the bottom. The spaces between rocks also offer more protection from predators.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):13 (June 2017).]

This successful conservation aquaculture practice did not “work out” by random accidents. Rather, a lot of careful thinking was necessarily involved, especially God’s creative thoughts (and deeds) that provided both humans and oysters with multi-generational life and abilities needed to live their respective life cycles – even down to the super-small level of biochemical details that include interactive nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, various RNAs, and the teleological functioning of gazillions of highly specialized protein molecules.

Who devised all of that to work?

The necessary details – of both human life and oyster life – required God to think through a lot of specifications, which themselves represent bioengineering programming to achieve God’s intended purposes (for humans and oysters).

Man-made items are constructed following directions called plans and specifications. Specifications are a unique kind of writing designed to convey intent. They are written instructions that set advance constraints on precisely what, how, and when particular materials will be used. Plans show geometric details of where materials are placed (though there is overlap between the two). Together, they must be detailed and selective enough to accurately and unambiguously communicate intended fabrication information to obtain all the product’s features.

Writing specifications and drawing plans can be difficult work. Designers are forced to initially build the project in their minds. They must visualize numerous details, and then clearly represent everything in that mental picture in words and drawings–a daunting task at any time, but especially for situations where no prototype even exists.

It is important to highlight two points about specifications. First, they are as close of a representation of the designer’s thoughts as possible–but they are not the thoughts themselves. Thoughts exist independently of the paper or programs which convey them. Second, when plans or specifications exist for something, they are–without exception–a sign of conscious design. Why? They reveal an intentional state that is characteristically restrictive. It selects in advance particular attributes for an intended purpose–which is the exact opposite of blind natural processes that yield random, ill-defined, piecemeal conglomerations of whatever is available.

So the secret to great architecture [or to building great human beings, or to building great Chesapeake Bay oysters!] is not in the drawings, but in the mind of the architect [i.e., the mind who creates the ideas about what should be built].

When evolutionary biologists determine the structure or sequence of DNA, they believe they uncover the secret of life.2 Disregarding the fact that information is immaterial, they fixate on the material of DNA. But they are incorrect. Functioning just like specifications, DNA is manipulated by specialized proteins that enable it to transfer, transcribe, store, and recall information for building a living thing–but it is not the information.

The real secret of life is the [purposeful] information.

[Quoting Randy J. Guliuzza, “Natural Selection is Not ‘Nature’s Design Process’”, ACTS & FACTS, 39(6):10-11 (June 2010).]

In other words, by promoting both conservation and aquaculture, human experts are showing resourcefulness, by facilitating juvenile oysters to display their own resourcefulness! And both kinds of resourcefulness interactively display God’s own resourceful imagination – because it was God Who gave resourceful thinking to humans, and it was God Who preprogrammed and bioengineered resourceful instincts into homesteading oysters.


(PowerPoint slide credit: Joe Reiger’s Oyster Restoration Workshop)

So, what is the bottom line on this? God fitted oysters to fill many underwater habitats, not just oysterbed reefs composed of preëxisting oyster shells.

><> JJSJ   profjjsj@aol.com


Catching Crayfish, a Lesson in Over-Reacting

by James J. S. Johnson

Large Tropical Blue Crayfish - Captive ©Dave Wilson

Tropical Blue Crayfish – Captive ©Dave Wilson

[ Fair Use image credit: http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/59/5987AC5B-0428-44B2-A8EA-EE1275538091/Presentation.Large/Tropical-blue-crayfish-captive.jpg ]

During my junior high years, living in a rural part of Maryland, I learned and enjoyed the art of catching crayfish.   (Nowadays I just eat them at restaurants!)   As a teenager, I was neither an astacologist (crayfish scientist) nor a serious catcher of crayfish (which is the same crustacean known to some as “mudbug” and in Louisiana as “crawfish”), so I did not use a “crayfish trap”.  Rather, as described below, I used a homemade dipping net, to catch those greenish critters that looked like lobsters.

Crayfish like drainage ditches and slow-moving streams, especially those with banks that are shaped in ways that provide hiding places for crayfish (and habitat for what crayfish eat), including underwater rocks or logs or roots.

After a heavy rainfall the velocity of stream currents may increase, as it drains, but crayfish can act to maintain their position at the edge of such drainage:  “Crayfish … help maintain position [in face of faster current flow] by altering body posture to counteract the effect of drag when exposed to an increase in current velocity.”  [Quoting from Paul S. Giller & Björn Malmqvist, THE BIOLOGY OF STREAMS AND RIVERS (Oxford University Press, 2008), page 122.]  Crayfish care about staying and defending their “home turf”  –  i.e., they are territorial, and some will fight to defend a favorite streambank crevice.  [Giller & Malmqvist, pages 131-132.]



[ Fair Use image credit:  http://www.baitfisherman.com/wp-content/gallery/13-11-18-crayfish-rigging/dynamic/dsc03284-nggid03163-ngg0dyn-0x0x100-00f0w010c010r110f110r010t010.jpg ]

Crayfish are omnivores – they emerge from their hiding places, especially when it is dark (from “dusk to dawn”, to borrow an old TNT expression from Chaplain Bob Webel – or on days when it is cloudy), to find and feed on freshwater snails, fish eggs, tadpoles, worms, algae, grains, and other plant material. The dominating influence of crayfish, as “keystone predators” in the food webs of drainage ditches and sluggish stream-waters (where they live), is produced directly, as predators, and indirectly, by eating riparian plant cover used by aquatic invertebrates.  [Giller & Malmqvist, page 204.]

Drainage ditches are a favorite habitat of crayfish, not just in Maryland.  “Ditches are of course just man-made sloughs [pooled streamwater that only moves slowly], but they are important to the survival of many species of life in the state.  Ditches are necessary for allowing rain runoff much of the year, and wherever water is present for half the year or more there are likely to be populations of crawfishes  and other invertebrates, as well as their predators such as frogs, snakes, and turtles.  Even shallow ditches may be home to several species of crawfish, some quite uncommon and localized in distribution.”  [Quoting Jerry G. Walls, CRAWFISH OF LOUISIANA (Louisiana State University Press, 2009), pages 35-36.]

Where I (then) lived, in rural Baltimore County,  there was a bridge with a huge drainage pipe that allowed streamwater to flow in irregular patterns, around large and small rocks, so that the stream bank had indentations and crevices where the waterflow was somewhat shielded, providing places for small creatures (like baby fish and insect larvae) to avoid being swept downstream, though crayfish lurked nearby, always hungry for something small to eat, whether it be plant material or aquatic invertebrates.

When moving on land crayfish crawl, using their legs.  But, when underwater, they  “swim” or “paddle”, using their legs and when needed, the tail fan.  Rapid flipping of the crayfish tail enables the crayfish to suddenly propel itself backward  — it appears to “jump backwards” in the water.  This can provide a quick exit from anything facially threatening the crayfish.

Of course, the crayfish themselves were shy about large disturbances in the water, so wading into the stream (which might be ankle-deep to knee-deep) would scare crayfish into hiding places, some of which were located under the bridge or in underwater burrows nearby.

If you splash a stone into the water directly in front of a crayfish it would jet backwards to escape.  The escape maneuver was so reflexive and quick that the crayfish never looked before it “jumped” backward in the water, to escape whatever the perceived danger was in front of it.  After learning this crayfish habit it became apparent that crayfish could be easily caught, by taking advantage of this “knee-jerk” reaction, with a home-made “net”.  So how did we catch crayfish, down by the drainage pipe that conveyed streamwater under the bridge?

Shasta Crayfish

Shasta Crayfish

[ Fair Use image credit: http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/1E/1E26BC2F-243D-472B-98E2-F8C6302ED893/Presentation.Large/Shasta-crayfish.jpg ]

First, make a “net” to catch the crayfish with.  Reshape (by bending) a coat hanger into the shape of a lollipop profile, i.e., a straight line (for a handle) that is curved into a circle.  The resulting shape of the coat hanger resembles a somewhat small version of the frame of a tennis racquet (or badminton racquet), with the “loop” (circle or oval) part being about the size (circumference) of a soccer ball, easily enough room for catching a large or small crayfish.  The largest crayfishes that I caught were about the size of lobsters that you can eat at a Red Lobster restaurant.   But the metal frame needs a net  –  so you tear apart an expendable T-shirt, then you thread it onto the circular “loop” part of the reshaped coat hanger.  Ideally the result is somewhat like a dipping net for an aquarium.

The coat-hanger “dipping net” is the tool to be used for catching (netting) the crayfish, but keep in mind that a crayfish will try to exit if caught, so you need a bucket of water to “land” your catch if and when you catch one.  So you need to bring a bucket (or a pail will do!) that is half-filled with water, and it must be positioned near the spot where you expect to net your crayfish.

The next trick is to get a crayfish to “jump” into your net, in the streamwater, just before you jerk the net up and out of the water (so the crayfish can’t exit your net, upon realizing that he or she is caught!).

But how do you entice a shy crayfish to “jump” into your net?  Actually, it’s not very difficult, although it requires sequenced (and quick) timing as you perform two rapid movements.  With your net ready to “stab” the water just behind the crayfish (i.e., where his or her tail is located), drop a clod of dirt (or a small rock) about 6 inches in front of the crayfish’s head and front claws.  Instantly plunge your net behind the crayfish – which is now “jumping” backward to avoid whatever you dropped into the water.  Then quickly jerk the net up out of the water – you should have the crayfish secured inside your net, for a moment at least, so now you quickly dump the net into your bucket of water, and shake the crayfish loose from the net.

Catching in a Net

Catching in a Net

[ Fair Use image credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/fHaQJN4LmGM/hqdefault.jpg ]

If your bucket is deep enough the crayfish is now covered in water, yet the water level needs to be low enough that the crayfish cannot swim to the top and then crawl out over the brim, to escape involuntary confinement.  Ironically, it was the crayfish’s reflex habit  —  the automatic “jump-back” reaction  —  that got the crayfish captured!



[ Fair Use image credit: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2011/12/29/1325169553221/A-virile-right-and-a-sign-007.jpg ]

Now that you have a captive crayfish you need to feed it, to keep it alive, or else eat it (!) as you might a lobster, or just release it.  “Catch and release” is what I recommend.

But what does catching a crayfish have to do with the adventure of living the Christian life? 

The crayfish illustrates the danger of carelessly over-reacting to a perceived danger.  Because the crayfish is startled by the rock dropped (into water facing the crayfish), it automatically reacts by “jumping” backward  –  without checking to see if a net is waiting there, to capture it! Since the Christian life involves a lot of balancing, we need to be careful about over-reacting to this or that.  Regarding the need to avoid over-reacting, as a Christian who strives to honor God in this life, see Charles C. Ryrie’s indispensable guidebook, BALANCING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 252 pages.  [Thankfully, this book was provided to me, when I was a teenager, by my youth/college pastor, Chaplain Bob Webel.]

Over-reacting involves moving recklessly from one extreme to its opposite.  For an example of such over-reacting  —  “jumping” from one imbalanced extreme to another — consider how to teach children to inculcate a responsible “work ethic”.

In one Christian family, that I know, the parents were very concerned about raising children who might be lazy, unfocused, and/ or unresourceful.  (So far, so good.)   In other words, the parents wanted their children to have a “good work ethic”  –  self-initiative, goal-oriented diligence, and an entrepreneurial spirit,   —  to learn and practice practical life skills, so that they could be self-starters, as adults, who economically support themselves.

Of course, who would oppose teaching children a “good work ethic”?  Shouldn’t children learn to take the initiative, to recognize (and acquire) useful opportunities, to have productive ambitions, to focus on practical successes?

Yet promoting an entrepreneurial spirit, with an inner drive to ambitiously succeed in profitable work, can swing to an extreme that neglects altruistic service.  Without the balance of some commitment to altruistic service, however, the profit-motive-based ethic selfishly degrades to:  “If I don’t get paid money to do it, I won’t do it.”  That refusal to blend altruistic service (which the apostle Paul role-modeled in Acts 20:33-35) with a for-profit “work ethic” quickly uglifies into ordinary greed.  Is selfish greed better than selfish laziness?  Neither habit honors the Lord.  Both are wickedly sinful.  Both sins are ugly to look at  –  and, sad to say, we have many examples of both of those vices, lived out in front of us.

The Holy Bible provides a proper balance:  yes, we should work for profit and self-sustenance (2nd Thessalonians 3:10-12); however, some of the profit acquired should be used non-selfishly, to further the Lord’s work on earth (Matthew 6:19-21) and to compassionately “support the weak” (Acts 20:35).

Cooked Crayfish

Crayfish served at IKEA

So next time you catch a crayfish, or eat a plateful at a Swedish crayfish party, or eat one at a Cajun restaurant, remember this lesson: don’t carelessly over-react!   —   review the big picture, and maintain a Biblical balance in whatever you are doing (1st Corinthians 10:31).

><> JJSJ

Charading Crabs and Creationists

Charading Crabs and Creationists ~ by Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab

Last summer, in Baltimore, I enjoyed eating “Chesapeake Bay blue crab”—but was that what I actually ate? Why am I suspicious?

Blue crab, the Chesapeake Bay’s most iconic edible species, also appears to be its most impersonated. A report released April 1 [2015] … found that 38 percent of crab cakes labeled as local on menus in the region were made of an entirely different species of crab, predominantly one imported from the Indo-Pacific region. In Annapolis and Baltimore, nearly 50 percent of “Maryland” and “Chesapeake Bay” crab cakes were mislabeled.(1)

Before getting crabby about such false advertising (a type of bait-and-switch deception), such crustacean counterfeiting should be verified. How can portunid pretenses be proven?

“I’ve put a lot of seafood in my purse over the last few years,” said Dr. Kimberly Warner, author of the report(2) … [referring to] crab cake samples that she and other testers collected [and] shipped to a lab in Florida that determined whether the cakes contained blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, and, if not, which species were used instead. Warner said the fraud rate of 38 percent is a conservative estimate. … Mislabeling “is being done because it’s easier to sell a Maryland crab cake than one from the Philippines or Vietnam” [said Steve Vilnit, of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources].(1)

Dr. Warner lamented that bogus brachyurans are part of a treacherous trend of tricking tastebuds:

Maryland’s favorite seafood dish is not safe from a bait and switch. When diners are expecting the fresh, distinctive flavor of the Chesapeake blue crab, they may instead be served a completely different species, shipped from as far away as Indonesia. … This mislabeling rate is consistent with Oceana’s previous studies on fish and shrimp. In 2013, Oceana found that one-third of more than 1,200 fish samples were mislabeled according to [USDA] guidelines. We also found 30 percent of shrimp samples to be misrepresented to consumers in a similar study in 2014.(2)

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Meal?

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Meal?

Many restaurants, buffets, and sushi bars are swimming in similar seafood scams. Piscatorial masquerades include pollock playing cod, icefish as anchovies, tilapia as grouper, rockfish as red snapper. Customers, who eagerly eat what is falsely advertised as “albacore” (or “white tuna”), may experience a digestive insult: the look-alike meat of escolar fish (a/k/a “snake mackerel”) is wax-loaded and promptly produces a blasting vermillion diarrhea.

So, buyer, beware seafood mislabeling.

Creation or Evolution?

Creation or Evolution?

Yet there are worse bait-and-switch scams to warily watch out for, such as “creation apologetics” ministry mislabeling. Not all that is called “Biblical” origins science is genuinely true-to-Genesis.

Some unfaithful-to-Genesis organizations overtly disclose their “creation-by-evolution” doctrines. However, most do not  conspicuously admit it, when compromising the Bible’s record of origins.

But you can recognize real messages, of ministries or “experts”, by their compatibility with Genesis.

Does the advertised “creation” teaching follow the uniformitarian dogma (and eons of “deep time”) of deists Charles Lyell and James Hutton? Does it incorporate Monsignor Lemaître’s “big bang” theory? Does it promote (or defend) the “natural selection” genes-in-magic sophistry of Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley? Does it presuppose death before Adam, like Alexander Winchell (or William Dembski), within some kind of pre-Adamite “hominids-morphing-into- humans” scenario?

When scrutinizing the true ingredients—crab or shrimp or tunafish—in seafood cuisine, forensic genetics can detect the telltale DNA of the seafood actually sold. However, when scrutinizing whether an “apologetics expert” is truly a Biblical creationist, compare what those “experts” teach, specifically, with what the Scripture teaches (Acts 17:11).


(1)Whitney Pipkin, “Nearly 40% of Blue Crab Mislabeled in Chesapeake Area Eateries”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 25(3):7 (May 2015).

(2)Kimberly Warner, Beth Lowell, et al., “Ocean Reveals Mislabeling of Iconic Chesapeake Blue Crab” (April 2015), 15 pages, posted at http://usa.oceana.org/sites/default/files/crab_testing_report_final_3.27.15.pdf .


Creation Science