Department of Natural Resources
M U S
S E L
North America's tremendous richness of pearly freshwater mussels is
unique. Biologists have identified nearly 300 species of mussels living
in our streams and lakes. Freshwater mussels are bivalve
mollusks with two hard outer shells and soft tissues inside.
Prehistoric American Indians ate the soft tissues and used the lustrous
shells for making tools and ornaments. Historically, the shells have
been prized as raw material for manufacturing buttons and are currently
used in the production of cultured pearls.
Many mussels are sensitive to changes in their environments. Populations
of mussels have declined alarmingly in recent decades because of siltation,
pollution, and competition from exotic
mollusks like the zebra mussel. Of the eighty mussel species native to
Illinois, more than half are currently threatened,
or extinct. We can protect mussels and
other aquatic wildlife by cleaning up our streams and lakes to create
healthy habitats where these animals can thrive.
PHOTOS OF ILLINOIS MUSSELS | ANATOMY
AND LIFE HISTORY | COMMERCIAL HARVEST |
CONSERVATION | GLOSSARY
| AGENCY RESOURCES | BIBLIOGRAPHY