Fatmuckets and pimplebacks are helping clean Texas rivers

Texas is home to more than 50 species of freshwater mussels but even more intriguing are their names.

Texas fatmucket, false spike, Texas pimpleback, Texas fawnsfoot and Texas hornshell are all names of mussels that can be found in Texas rivers.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that a single mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water each day, which is why they’re sometimes referred to as the “livers of the rivers.”

“Unfortunately, many of these native mussel species are declining due to habitat loss, declines in water quality, changes in stream flow rates, and major impoundments (dams),” USFWS officials said. “Climate change is expected to make these threats worse with high water temperatures and more frequent droughts and floods.”

The USFWS says there are ways to help freshwater mussels across the U.S.

Help stop the spread of invasive species by removing plants, seeds, animals and mud from boots, pets, gear and vehicles before and after exploring nature.Visit a national wildlife refuge , national fish hatchery, or other public lands and learn more about coastal, ocean and freshwater habitats.Discover volunteer opportunities across America, including at nearby national wildlife refuges or hatcheries.Buy a Federal Duck Stamp. Put your stamp on conservation by purchasing a Federal Duck Stamp. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar go directly into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to purchase or lease wetlands and wildlife habitat for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge System, which supports a wide variety of fish and wildlife.

Want to know more about mussels?

The false spike is found exclusively in the Guadalupe River basin. They were thought to be extinct until a handful were rediscovered in 2011.

“Texas pimplebacks typically don’t have any bumps on their shells. That’s why scientists named them pimplebacks. Makes sense… right” USFWS officials quipped in a blog post.

“The Texas hornshell is only found in the Rio Grande and some of its U.S. tributaries. Abundant up until the 1960s, the Texas hornshell has rapidly declined due to water quality declines and was protected as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act in February 2018,” the blog post states.

Female fatmuckets produce an elaborate fishing lure that looks like a minnow.

Not all mussels are welcome in Texas, however. The invasive zebra mussel filters out algae needed for food by native Texas species.

Zebra mussels originate from Eurasia and are thought to have been brought to the U.S. in the 1980s, according to Waterfront Restoration.


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