Freshwater Mussels of the Ohio River

Have you ever seen a purple wartyback? How about a pyramid pigtoe? Or a monkeyface? These colorful and sometimes comical names belong to our nation's freshwater mussels. These animals are our rivers' natural filters, constantly straining the water and removing particles which they consume as food, leaving the water cleaner. They are long-lived (some to 100 years), slow growing, and move very little during their lives, serving as excellent indicators of aquatic health. They are also food for other animals. Over the centuries, people have harvested mussels as food, tools and ornamentation, and more recently, for the manufacture of pearl buttons and cultured pearls.

Nearly 80 species of native freshwater mussels historically inhabited the Ohio River. Fifteen of these are federally endangered, while five are already considered to be extinct. Over the past 200 years, we have abused our aquatic ecosystems through pollution, dam construction, stream channelization, dredging, clearing of riparian vegetation, and discharge of mining and industrial wastes. Add to this the introduction of exotic species like the zebra mussel, and you have a recipe for extinction.

Following is a list of the native mussel species known to inhabit the Ohio River, either historically or currently:

Common Name

Scientific Name

Spectaclecase R

Cumberlandia monodonta

Mucket

Actinonaias ligamentina

Threeridge

Amblema plicata plicata

Flat floater

Anodonta suborbiculata

Rock-pocketbook

Arcidens confragosus

Purple wartyback

Cyclonaias tuberculata

Fanshell E

Cyprogenia stegaria

Butterfly

Ellipsaria lineolata

Elephant-ear

Elliptio crassidens

Spike

Elliptio dilatata

Leafshell X

Epioblasma flexuosa

Forkshell X

Epioblasma lewisii

Purple catspaw E R

Epioblasma obliquata obliquata

White catspaw E R

Epioblasma obliquata perobliqua

Round combshell X

Epioblasma personata

Tennessee riffleshell X

Epioblasma propinqua

Wabash riffleshell X

Epioblasma sampsonii

Northern riffleshell E R

Epioblasma torulosa rangiana

Tubercled blossom E R

Epioblasma torulosa torulosa

Snuffbox R

Epioblasma triquetra

Ebonyshell

Fusconaia ebena

Wabash pigtoe

Fusconaia flava

Long-solid

Fusconaia subrotunda

Cracking pearlymussel E R

Hemistena lata

Pink mucket E

Lampsilis abrupta

Plain pocketbook

Lampsilis cardium

Wavy-rayed lampmussel

Lampsilis fasciola

Pocketbook

Lampsilis ovata

Fatmucket

Lampsilis siliquoidea

Yellow sandshell

Lampsilis teres

White heelsplitter

Lasmigona complanata complanata

Fluted-shell

Lasmigona costata

Fragile papershell

Leptodea fragilis

Scaleshell E R

Leptodea leptodon

Black sandshell

Ligumia recta

Washboard

Megalonaias nervosa

Threehorn wartyback

Obliquaria reflexa

Hickorynut

Obovaria olivaria

Ring pink E R

Obovaria retusa

Round hickorynut

Obovaria subrotunda

White wartyback E R

Plethobasus cicatricosus

Orange-foot pimpleback E

Plethobasus cooperianus

Sheepnose

Plethobasus cyphyus

Clubshell E

Pleurobema clava

Round pigtoe

Pleurobema coccineum

Ohio pigtoe

Pleurobema cordatum

Rough pigtoe E R

Pleurobema plenum

Pyramid pigtoe

Pleurobema pyramidatum

Pink heelsplitter

Potamilus alatus

Fat pocketbook E

Potamilus capax

Pink papershell

Potamilus ohiensis

Kidneyshell

Ptychobranchus fasciolaris

Giant floater

Pyganodon grandis

Rabbitsfoot

Quadrula cylindrica cylindrica

Winged mapleleaf E R

Quadrula fragosa

Monkeyface

Quadrula metanevra

Wartyback

Quadrula nodulata

Pimpleback

Quadrula pustulosa pustulosa

Mapleleaf

Quadrula quadrula

Creeper

Strophitus undulatus

Lilliput

Toxolasma parvus

Texas lilliput R

Toxalasma texasensis

Pistolgrip

Tritogonia verrucosa

Fawnsfoot

Truncilla donaciformis

Deertoe

Truncilla truncata

Pondhorn

Uniomerus tetralasmus

Paper pondshell

Utterbackia imbecillis

Rayed bean R

Villosa fabalis

Rainbow

Villosa iris

Little spectaclecase R

Villosa lienosa


X = presumably extinct
E = federally endangered
R = extirpated from the Ohio River