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ISM System
Illinois Mussels
Life Cycle
Human Uses
Mussel Database
Photo Gallery
Identification Activity
Harvesting the River

Mussels of Illinois

Mussels are an overlooked but very important species in our aquatic ecosystems. The very presence of freshwater mussels in our waterways indicates at least a modicum of health in those waters. Mussels are diverse and often very beautiful in form. They have a unique life cycle that depends on another species for successful reproduction. Human over-harvesting on some rivers drove some species to extinction and others to the brink. Luckily, today, with protection and encouragement, some species are holding their own or increasing.

Image: Ellipsaria lineolata
Photograph by Dr. Robert Warren

Mussels of Illinois contains detailed and useful information on mussels in the collection of the Illinois State Museum:

  • an illustrated introduction containing pages on the anatomy, habitat, life cycle, human uses, and diversity of freshwater mussels.

  • a searchable database of all Illinois records in the ISM collection

  • a searchable image archive of most of the 80 species of mussels that have occurred in Illinois

  • a Living Museum article about Illinois mussels, their life cycle and habitat

  • activities and resources for students and lesson plans for teachers on mussel anatomy, life cycle, and habitat

  • a link to the Harvesting the River Online Exhibit that explores the economic life of the central Illinois River since 1850.

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