Re: NANFA-- Mussels

Bruce Stallsmith (
Mon, 02 Sep 2002 10:46:03 -0400

Kahley, I have a sneaking suspicion that the "mussels" you have found are
the other exotic species in North America, the Asian Clam, Corbicula
fluminea. They can be extremely common locally, and get up to about 3.5 cm
(1.5 in) across in size, usually a medium brown in color. Below is a link to
a site affiliated with the Univ. of Southern Mississippi that features some
invasive species. It also includes an excellent Noel Burkhead photo of

There are other sites on the web with good information about native mussels.
Some of these are run by the Illinois Natural History Survey, Univ. of
Tennessee and Virginia Tech (please, no hokies applause). A search in Google
on Unionid clams (or Unionidae) will take you to many of these sites. Mussel
ID is more of an art than a science, I'll warn you. Very different species
can be very similar in external appearance. I had to confront that this
summer on a survey project in the Elk River in AL, looking for two
endangered species. I was convinced I had found the Endangered _Quadrula
intermedia_, and instead it was the common _Cyclonaias tubercula_ which can
most easily be distinguished by looking at the color of the inside of the
shell. The best book I found was "Freshwater Mussels of Tennessee",
published by the Univ. of Tenn. Press (I'm blanking on the two authors!!).
They're a fascinating group of animals once you learn to look for them and
to understand their preferences.

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL, US of A
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