Freshwater Mussels Facts

  • There are nearly 300 species of freshwater mussels in North America, with most of these species in the eastern and midwestern United States.
  • There are more different kinds of freshwater mussels in this country than on the entire African continent.
  • Mussels provide food for muskrats, raccoons, river otters, and some birds.
  • Mussels filter out small particles from the water and transform them into food for fish and other animals. Since mussels are filter-feeders, they clean water as they feed.
  • Fawnfoot, hickorynut, and fat pocketbook are a few of the fun names of Missouri's nearly 70 mussel species.
  • Learn lots more about Missouri's freshwater mussels on their group page in the Field Guide.
pond mussel, showing the upper outside of the shell and the shiny inside
Pond mussel shell
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Save the mussels!

Nearly two-thirds of Missouri's mussel species are of conservation concern. Since most mussels stay in a single spot their entire lives, they need stable living conditions.

  • The most serious threat is river damming, which reduces or removes currents necessary to most species.
  • In-stream sand and gravel mining also greatly disturbs stream channels and stream bottoms, where mussels live.
  • Pollution from herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, mining waste, and residential and livestock sewage kill mussels and other aquatic life.

Protect them

Consult Missouri mussel and clam regulations before collecting them. You can also help protect our mussels by joining or forming a Missouri Stream Team in your area.