3 Alabama freshwater mussels proposed for endangered species protection

Cumberland moccasinshell (Tierra Curry)

According to the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center in 2021, 186 kinds of freshwater mussels live in Alabama—more than any state in the U.S.

Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service three rare  Alabama freshwater mussels, the Cumberland moccasinshell, Tennessee clubshell, and Tennessee pigtoe might soon be getting additional federal protection.

Listing three mussels under Endangered Species Act

Earlier this month, the Service proposed the three Alabama mussels to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“The southeastern United States is home to a tremendous diversity of freshwater life, with the global center of mussel diversity being right here,” said Acting Southeast Regional Director Mike Oetker. “The state of freshwater mussels often reflects the quality of water. The listing of these mussels is a reminder of the importance of our role in keeping water clean.” 

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) defines an endangered species as one at risk of extinction, and a threatened species as one that is likely to become at risk of extinction (endangered) in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 

A little bit of info about the rare mussels

Interested in where these rare mussels live? Here is a description of the three critters from the Center for Biological Diversity, the group that petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to name them endangered.

Tennessee clubshell: The Tennessee clubshell is found in the Tennessee River and Cumberland River watersheds in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. It can live to be 50 and uses darters and minnows as hosts for its larvae. It is 4 inches long with a triangular shaped tawny brown shell with green rays.

Tennessee pigtoe: The Tennessee pigtoe lives in the Tennessee River drainage in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. It can live to be 50 years old and reach nearly 4 inches long with an oval shell that is yellowish brown with dark green stripes.

Cumberland moccasinshell: The Cumberland moccasinshell lives in the Tennessee River and Cumberland River drainages in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. It can live to be 24 and is elliptical in shape attaining 2.5 inches in length. It only uses darters as host fish.

Public comments requested

The public is invited to submit comments on the proposed listing throughout a 60-day comment period ending October 21, 2023.  USFWS accepts electronic or hard copy comments received or postmarked on or before October 23, 2023.  Comments submitted electronically must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.  Send comments to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa St., Asheville, NC 28801 by October 6, 2023.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington
Articles: 293