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To learn more about the life cycle and reproduction of mussels, click here.
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View the 2010 Scaleshell Recovery Plan.


Scaleshell (Leptodea leptodon)
Status: Endangered
October 9, 2001

For questions regarding the Scaleshell, please contact Chris Davidson at chris_davidson@fws.gov or 501-513-4481.

Species Facts:
The scaleshell is a relatively small mussel (approximately 5 inches in length) with a smooth, yellowish-green to brown shell with numerous faint green rays.

The reproductive cycle of the scaleshell is similar to that of other native freshwater mussels. Females retain fertilized eggs in their gills until the larvae (glochidia) fully develop. The glochidia are then released into the water, and attach to the gills of a specific species of host fish, in this case the drum (Aplodinotus grunniens). They parasitize this fish for a short time while they develop before dropping off as juvenile mussels. The specific route to infestation is currently unknown; a hypothesis is that the scaleshell infests drum via host predation on females.

Habitat Summary:
The scaleshell occurs in medium to large rivers with low to medium gradients. It inhabits a variety of substrates, but is primarily found in stable riffles and runs with gravel, cobble, boulder, and occasionally mud or sand, and slow to moderate current velocity.

The scaleshell is found in only 14 of 55 rivers where it historically occurred.  These rivers include Frog Bayou, St. Francis, Spring, South Fork Spring, South Fourche LaFave, and White Rivers in Arkansas.  Most records for this species in Arkansas are based on a few or a single specimen

Why is it Endangered?
The range of the scaleshell has been seriously reduced by the construction of reservoirs, water quality degradation from nonpoint sources such as agriculture and industrial development, hydropower proposals, and gravel mining, and other impacts to its habitat. Owing to the species’ limited distribution, any factors that adversely modify habitat or water quality in these stream segments could further reduce the species and the habitat it occupies.

The scaleshell was propogated at Missouri State University in 2010 after twelve years of effort. Juveniles are grown in the lab and reintroduced into current and historic populations.

Read more about the scaleshell in the Scaleshell Recovery Plan (2010).

Range in Arkansas:

Arkansas Field Office
110 S. Amity Road
Suite 300
Conway, AR 72032

501/513 4470 (v)
501/513 4480 (f)

Last Updated: December 30, 2015

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