Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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Endangered - Freshwater Mussels

Orangefoot Pimpleback. Credit: USFWS

Orangefoot Pimpleback. Credit: USFWS

There are six mussel species that are listed as endangered that have the possibility to occur within the waters of the Tennessee River on the refuge. Due to lack of qualitative surveys it can only be speculated as to the current existence of any of these species within the refuge.

The ring pink, orangefoot pimpleback, and pink mucket mussels are listed as endangered and have been documented in the Tennessee River on the refuge. Records of the ring pink and orangefoot pimpleback on the refuge pre-date the construction of Kentucky Dam and the establishment of the refuge. These two species were last documented near the refuge a few miles upstream of the Busseltown Unit in 1964. The pink mucket was last located on the Duck River Unit at River Mile 111.8 in 1992. The orangefoot pimpleback and pink mucket still have somewhat stable populations within Kentucky Lake near Pickwick Dam. Rough pigtoe, fanshell, and white wartyback mussels probably occurred within the boundaries of the refuge prior to the construction of Kentucky Dam and the establishment of the refuge. There are no records of the rough pigtoe in Kentucky Lake since it was inundated.

Refuge wildlife management activities should have no impacts on these mussels. The refuge’s role is to protecting these species is to protect the potential habitat from threats, such as contaminants and gravel dredging.


Interesting Facts

  • Freshwater mussels are nature’s water filters -- a single mussel can filter several gallons of water per day. They clean our streams, lakes, and rivers as they feed on algae and other small food particles. They also provide food for animals like muskrats and raccoons; even early humans ate them. Since mussels are sensitive to environmental changes, they monitor the health of our rivers and streams; where you find mussels you usually find good water quality
  • Freshwater mussels are now one of the most imperiled groups of animals in North America. In America, 69 of 304 (23%) mussel species are listed as federally endangered or threatened


Last updated: December 7, 2009