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ISM System :Introduction: Diversity & Conservation
Illinois Mussels
Life Cycle
Human Uses
Mussel Database
Photo Gallery
Identification Activity
Harvesting the River

Diversity and Conservation of Freshwater Mussels
by Robert E. Warren
ISM Associate Curator of Anthropology

How Many Species Are There?
Biologists have identified nearly 300 species of mussels in North America, more than on any other continent in the world. Eighty species have been found in Illinois, including the threeridge (Amblema plicata), the purple wartyback (Cyclonaias tuberculata), the fanshell (Cyprogenia stegaria), the butterfly (Ellipsaria lineolata), the tubercled blossom (Epioblasma torulosa), the snuffbox (Epioblasma triquetra), the rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrica), the monkeyface (Quadrula metanevra), the mapleleaf (Quadrula quadrula), and the deertoe (Truncilla truncata).

Are Mussels Endangered?
Mussel populations have declined alarmingly in recent decades because of siltation, pollution, and competition from exotic mollusks like the zebra mussel. Of the 80 mussel species native to Illinois, more than half are currently threatened, endangered, extirpated, or extinct. We can protect mussels and other aquatic wildlife. Cleaning up our streams and lakes will create healthy habitats where these animals can thrive.

Illustration: Extinct Illinois mussels:

photo of Epioblasma flexuosa photo of Epioblasma phillipsii
photo of Epioblasma propinqua photo of Epioblasma torulosa


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