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Researchers discover freshwater mussel species thought to be extinct

s on the San Saba River are part of a larger project the institute is working on for the Texas Department of Transportation. The department wants to know more about the current distribution, basic biology and habitat requirements of the 15 state-listed species. The researchers have conducted previous surveys in the Brazos and Colorado rivers and their tributaries.

"Now that the species are state-listed, the Texas Department of Transportation needs to take these species into consideration when it does any construction or development that might affect these species and their habitats," said Groce, who manages the mussel project.

If any state-listed species live within planned construction or maintenance, the department must come up with a plan to avoid, minimize or compensate for any loss of the species or its habitat, she said.

Prior to the surveys, the institute created a database of all mussel specimens collected in museums in Texas and other parts of the country in the last 150 years. From the database, a digitized map of where the mussels occurred historically was produced.

The next step, Randklev and Groce said, is working with The University of Texas at Tyler to develop a model that will predict the probability of the 15 species occurring across the state.

Not only will that involve collecting mussel location information during the field surveys, but the researchers will gather information on mussel habitat use, water quality, land use, river morphology and discharge of the surveyed areas to input into the statewide model, Groce said.

"What the transportation department would like is a model that will allow it to focus its mussel survey efforts in areas where there is a high probability for these species to occur," Randklev said.

"Observations made in the field regarding mussel behavior and habitat preferences will provide a foundation for drafting recovery plans and help in the development of prope

Contact: Kathy Wythe
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

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