This freshwater mussel is found in the James River basin in Virginia and West Virginia and in the Upper Dan sub-basin of the Roanoke River basin in Virginia and North Carolina. The James spinymussel is a small freshwater mussel slightly less than three inches in length. Adults have a dark brown shell with prominent growth rings and occasionally, short spines on each valve. Young mussels have a shiny, yellow-gold and brown shell with or without one to three short spines. The foot and mantle tissue of adult mussels are typically orange.
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