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Discover Nature: Pocketbook Mussels

Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri’s 65 species of freshwater mussels live all around us, sitting quietly in the bottoms of rivers and streams, often unnoticed despite their bright pearls and colorful names. Discover Nature this week, as the “Pocketbook” mussel begins breeding.

Pocketbook mussels have large, thick, oval shells, with a smooth, yellow or tan to yellowish-green epidermis, with dark green rays.

They feed on fine particles of decaying organic matter by pulling water through their body cavity, extracting nutrients and oxygen, and expelling sediment and other undigested waste.

Males release sperm directly into water.  Females downstream siphon sperm into the gill chamber, where eggs are fertilized.  Eggs mature into larvae, discharge into the water, and attach to host fish such as white crappie, sauger, bluegill, or yellow perch. The tiny mussel eventually breaks away and floats to the bottom of the stream where the cycle begins again.                                

Mussels are excellent indicators of water quality, and are an important food source for other species in the aquatic environment.

Damming, and sand and gravel mining pose the largest threat to mussel habitat. Pollution from pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, mining waste and residential and livestock sewage also kills mussels.  

Learn more about Missouri’s musselswith the Missouri Department of Conservation and their online Field Guide.  Discover Nature: Pocketbook Mussel.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Trevor serves as KBIA’s weekday morning host for classical music. He has been involved with local radio since 1990, when he began volunteering as a music and news programmer at KOPN, Columbia's community radio station. Before joining KBIA, Trevor studied social work at Mizzou and earned a masters degree in geography at the University of Alabama. He has worked in community development and in urban and bicycle/pedestrian planning, and recently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his wife, Lisa Groshong. An avid bicycle commuter and jazz fan, Trevor has cycled as far as Colorado and pawed through record bins in three continents.
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