Alabama pearlshell (Pleurobema troschelianum)
painted clubshell (Pleurobema chattanoogaense)
Georgia pigtoe (Pleurobema hanleyianum)

Georgia pigtoe
First placed on the candidate list: 1984
Years waiting for protection: 20
Range: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Caroline, Tennessee, Virginia
Habitat: rivers

The Alabama pearlshell, Georgia (=Altamaha) spinymussel, and slabside pearlymussel are just a few of dozens of imperiled southeastern mussels. The latter is the most imperiled species group in the United States. The Department of Interior knew these three were headed toward extinction in 1968, but did not list them as endangered species when the Endangered Species Act was created in December 1973. Instead it waited eleven years and then placed them on the federal candidate list in 1984. The candidate list provides no protection. Twenty more years have since past and they still have not been listed as endangered species.

The Alabama pearlshell occurs only in Alabama and has population of less than 1,000 individuals, most of which occur in Hunter, Jordan, and Little Cedar creeks in Conecuh County. It has declined dramatically during the 30 years since the Endangered Species Act was created and the 20 years since it was put on the candidate list. The species and its habitat have been impacted by dams, sedimentation, pollution, highway construction, logging, agriculture, grazing, housing developments, and pipeline crossings.

painted clubshell

The Georgia (=Altamaha) spinymussel is endemic to the Altamaha River drainage of southeastern Georgia. It declined significantly during the decades long listing delays and is now extinct in the Oconee and Ohoopee rivers, and limited to small populations on the Altamaha River and lower Ocmulgee rivers. Collectors in the 1960s were able to find more mussels at a single site than researchers in the past two years were able to find in more that 250 hours of searching. It is severely threatened by siltation from logging and logging roads, discharge from a nuclear plant, and contaminants from wastewater treatment plants.

The slabside pearlymussel formerly occurred in the Tennessee River system (AL, MS, TN, VA) and the Cumberland River system (NC, KY). It is now extinct in the latter and occurs in just nine streams in the former: the Powell River, Clinch River, North Fork Holston River, Big Moccasin Creek, Middle Fork Holston River, Hiwasee River, Paint Rock River, Larkin Fork, Estill Fork, Hurricane Creek, Elk river, Bear Creek, and Duck River. Its decline was caused by dams, diversions, siltation, and pollution.


graphic Andrew Rodman ©2002
May 2, 2004
Go back