Southeast Region
Conserving the Nature of America



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A light brown mussel with white interior

Rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrica cylindrica)



Range: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia

* A public comment period is currently open for this species *

Photo: Bob Butler, USFWS

History and Location

Map of the range of the rabbitsfoot

Map of the historical and current range of the species.

Map of critical habitat in streams in Arkansas

Map of all designated critical habitat in rivers and streams in Arkansas.

The rabbitsfoot is a freshwater mussel found in rivers and streams in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia. We estimate that it has been lost from about 64 percent of its historical range. While 51 of 140 historical populations are still present, only 11 populations are viable; 23 populations are at risk of extirpation and 17 populations do not seem to be reproducing at a level that can sustain the populations. Most of the existing rabbitsfoot populations are marginal to small and isolated.

Rabbitsfoot mussels prefer shallow areas with sand and gravel along the bank and next to shoals, which provide a refuge in fast-moving rivers. Most freshwater mussels live burrowed in mixed mud, sand, and gravel at the bottom of rivers and streams. Some are adapted to the quiet water and muddy depths of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs.


Critical Habitat

For the rabbitsfoot, the Service is proposing to designate critical habitat in 35 stream segments where the mussel is found, comprising approximately 1,655 river miles in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

All areas proposed as critical habitat are occupied by the mussel.

Critical habitat is a geographic area containing features essential to the survival of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management consideration or protection. The Service is required under the ESA to consider whether critical habitat is needed for a species’ recovery.

Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not affect activities on the land unless they are funded by federal dollars.

If federal funds are involved in a project in the area, the government agency involved will need to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help landowners avoid, reduce, or mitigate potential impacts to the species or modify its critical habitat.

Why Should You Care?

Mussels are monitors of the health of our waters. They are natural filters and serve as a food source for numerous species of wildlife. They are part of our American cultural history, and they aid in the preservation of biodiversity.

The presence of diverse and reproducing populations of mussels indicate a healthy aquatic system which means good fishing, good water quality for waterfowl and other wildlife species, as well as insurance that our water is safe for our use (swimming and drinking). Conversely, when mussel populations are at risk, it indicates problems for other fish and wildlife species, and people, too.

Mussels are natural filters, feeding on algae and plankton that help clean the water. Mussels are also an important food source for many species of wildlife including otters, raccoon, muskrat, herons, egrets, and some fish.

The study of mussels, their natural history, and habitat requirements provides important lessons on the interconnectedness of the aquatic system and how species adapt to their ecosystem.

Mussels played an important role in the cultural history of prehistoric and recent native people of Arkansas. They were used as food and the shells were used for ornamentation, tools, and as a commodity for trade. Indian shell middens (the piles of shells that Native Americans left behind) extend for miles along sites of old villages and encampments along rivers. Mussels were used for buttons prior to World War II. They are still used in the cultural pearl industry.

Mussels play an important role in our aquatic ecosystems. Considering that less than 20 mussel species are found in most other countries of the world, our North American rivers and streams are truly “rich” with close to 300 species. Arkansas has more native freshwater mussel species than any state west of the Mississippi River!


Fact Sheets and Additional Information


Recovery Plan

A Recovery Plan is currently in development for this species.


News Releases


Federal Register Documents

All Federal Register documentation for the neosho mucket is accessible via the Enivornmental Online Conservation System (ECOS) here:!fedreg.action?spcode=F03X


Need More Information?

Our Arkansas Ecological Services Office in Conway, Arkansas is the lead office for this species. Please call 501-513-4470.

Last updated: April 22, 2015