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Researchers discover freshwater mussel species thought to be extinct

species are on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's state-threatened list. Of the 15 on the state list, 11 are being considered for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The researchers began surveying the San Saba after reports that populations of the Texas pimpleback, smooth pimpleback and Texas fawnsfoot had been seen in the river. Finding the remains of the false spike was an added surprise, Randklev said.

Identifying populations of rare mussel species is important for their long-term conservation, Randklev said.

"We have a good idea of where they occurred historically, but our knowledge of their distribution within a given river drainage and, in some cases, the status of existing populations, is lacking," he said.

Randklev said that in general mussels are good indicators of water quality and stream health because they are sensitive to changes in the environment.

"In Texas, many streams and rivers are unable to support mussel populations at levels that existed in the past because of changes to their habitats and declining water quality," he said. false spike freshwater mussel, a species previously thought to be extinct.

This recently discovered fresh remains is of a false spike freshwater mussel, a species previously thought to be extinct. (Photo courtesy of Texas AgriLife Research)

Declining populations of mussels can have a huge impact on stream ecosystems, Randklev said.

"Freshwater mussels are a source of food for some fishes, birds and small mammals," he said. "Their wastes are important for algal and macroinvertebrate production, and their shells can provide habitat for benthic (bottom dwelling) invertebrates. So when mussels start declining in a river or stream, it's going to impact other species that depend on them, whether it be for food or for habitat."

Julie Groce, Texas AgriLife Extension Service program specialist with the institute, said the survey

Contact: Kathy Wythe
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

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