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For Immediate Release, September 16, 2013

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Mussels From Midwest, Southeast Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Protection for Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot Means Cleaner Water for People

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized Endangered Species Act protection today for two freshwater mussels, following a 2011 agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions for 757 imperiled species nationwide. The Neosho mucket mussel, which occurs in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, was listed as endangered, while the rabbitsfoot mussel, which occurs in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, was listed as threatened. 

Neosho mucket
Neosho mucket mussel photo by Edwin J. Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Photos are available for media use.

“What a relief that these two unique mussels and the rivers they need to survive are finally getting protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “Saving these two mussels will mean cleaning up rivers that we all need for drinking, fishing and swimming.”

The Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels live on the bottom of streams and rivers and have suffered drastic declines because of water pollution and dams. Mussels reproduce by making a lure that looks like a young fish; when larger fish try to prey on the lure, the mussels release their fertilized eggs onto the fish’s gills. In dirty water the fish cannot see the mussel’s lure, so the mussel can’t reproduce.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has also proposed to protect 2,138 miles of critical habitat for the two mussels, which it says will be finalized in the near future. 

Species Background

The Neosho mucket mussel has a 4-inch, round shell that’s light tan on the outside and bluish-white on the inside. It lives in the Illinois, Neosho and Verdigris river watersheds in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Threatened by dams and pollution from agriculture and mining, it can no longer be found in more than 60 percent of its historic range. The mucket has been on a waiting list for protection since 1984.

The rabbitsfoot mussel grows to about 6 inches in length, with a rectangular, olive shell featuring gorgeous black triangles on the outside and iridescent purple or white inside. It has disappeared from 65 percent of its historic range. The rabbitsfoot was historically known from 139 streams in 15 states, but today it survives in only 49 streams and has been lost from Georgia and West Virginia. It is threatened by water pollution, mining, dredging, dams and displacement by exotic mollusks. It has been waiting for protection since 1994.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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