FWS Focus



The Altamaha spinymussel (Elliptio spinosa) is a freshwater mussel found only in Georgia’s Altamaha River and its major tributaries. Their shells are sub-triangular and moderately inflated in shape, shiny and smooth in texture… except for their spines! Young spinymussels have greenish-yellow shells with faint green rays. As they grow older, their shell darkens to deep brown. Mussels are often confused for rocks but only a few resemble punk rocks! The Altamaha spinymussel is one of three North American spinymussels known for the presence of conspicuous spines on their shells. The nacre (or interior of the shell) is pink or purple in color. Today, Altamaha spinymussels are threatened by habitat loss and modification, degraded water quality (particularly from legacy sedimentation from past agricultural practices) and having a small population size. Spinymussels are particularly vulnerable to natural or human-induced catastrophic events such as drought and pollution spills. We still have much to learn about their life history.

Scientific Name

Elliptio spinosa
Common Name
Altamaha spinymussel
FWS Category

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers




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