Archive for January 16th, 2012

Wildlife: Freshwater Mussels

Monday, January 16th, 2012

This is Passport to Texas

Freshwater mussels—soft bodied organisms that live inside hard shells—are vital to Texas’ aquatic ecosystems.

03—They’re the foundation of the aquatic ecosystem.

Marsha May is Texas Mussel Watch coordinator, which is part of the Texas Nature Trackers program at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

14—I like to call them the vacuum cleaners of the system. Their main diet is bacteria and other small partials. They’re the filtration systems of the rivers lakes and ponds. So they have a very important role in cleaning that water.

Marsha says mussels are an indicator species—the aquatic equivalent of a canary in a coalmine.

09—They’re definitely a canary in a coalmine. You start losing these freshwater mussels, then you know something definitely detrimental is going on with that system.

We have lost some mussel species. Historically Texas has had more than fifty species of freshwater mussels, but today we’re down to 47.

22—We currently only have one species that’s federally listed as endangered, and that’s the Ouachita rock pocketbook. We’ve never found it alive in Texas; we’ve only found recently dead shells. So it goes on and off the Texas list. We have 11 species that US Fish and Wildlife is looking at possibly listing.

More on mussels tomorrow.

That’s our show with support from the SFWR program… funded by your purchase of fishing and hunting equipment and motor boat fuel…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.