The pigtoe, Fusconaia flava

Some mussels, for example, Margaritifera margaritifera, can live to be 100 years old. Katrin Lundstedt-Enkel recently e-mailed from Sweden to tell about one that was 132 years:

"Just a little hello from Sweden! In the late 80-ies Eva Grundelius, Swedish freshwater research, Drottningholm, Stockholm (At present working for "Swedish association of Fishery owners", Falun) investigated the Margaritifera numbers and the age distribution in all the waters of the county Dalarna. The musselbanks were in a bad state. Some did not contain any mussels younger than 30 years.i.e. no reproduction for more than 30 years. A report of the state of the mussels in Germany shows the same depressing facts but here in a lot of places they did not find any mussels younger than 60 years! Doing the age investigation Eva Grundelius found a Margaritifera that was 132 years! This one is the oldest (positive!) found ever in the World. And quite a few that were older than 100 yrs. The mussles were "yeared" in two different ways. One by counting the "yearstripes" where the shell lock is and the other method by going in with a microprobe and measure the contents of different metalls in the shell. As the mussels have a different eating/growing speed during winter there is also a different annual metal uptake that is detectable."

The Tennessee state gem is the pearl, taken from mussels in the fresh water rivers of the state.

There is a multi-million dollar shell export industry in the midwestern United States. Mussels are harvested in the south where they are shipped to Japan for the pearl industry.

Ever see the movie "The Kentuckian"? There is a scene where Burt Lancaster is brailling for freshwater mussels. Brailes are crowfoot dredges used to harvest freshwater mussels in the south.

You can tell where former stream confluences were by looking at the distribution of freshwater mussels. Stay tuned for a web page showing how Michigan is a great example of this!

Famous songs with lines about mussels:

Pulling mussels from a shell, Squeeze, 45s and under. (Well, okay, this isn't about freshwater mussels, but it is still a good song)

Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd, has a line:

"Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers

and they've been known to pick a song or two."

Muscle Shoals is an area on the Tennessee River in Northern Alabama. A. E. Ortmann, in 1924, noted that up to 80 species of freshwater mussels belonging to 29 genera were once found there. The unusual diversity was the confluence of the "Cumberlandian" and "Interior Basin" faunas. Unfortunately for the mussels, this is now the site of the Wilson Dam (NOTE: There is a lot of other music associated with Muscle Shoals).

Another note about Alabama--within it's watersheds, it has the most species of freshwater mussels (about 104, which is about one third of the North American fauna).

Not so trivial informational links: