Fatmuckets and pimplebacks help clean up Texas rivers


Texas is home to more than 50 species of freshwater mussels, but their names are even more intriguing.

Texas fatmucket, false spike, Texas pmpleback, Texas fawnsfoot, and Texas hornshell are all names for mussels that can be found in Texas rivers.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that a single mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water each day, which is why they are sometimes called “river livers.”

“Unfortunately, many of these native mussel species are in decline due to habitat loss, declining water quality, changes in stream flows and major impoundments (dams ),” USFWS officials said. “Climate change is expected to exacerbate these threats with higher water temperatures and more frequent droughts and floods.”

false cob (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

USFWS says there are ways to help freshwater mussels across the United States

  • Buy a federal duck stamp. Put your stamp on conservation by purchasing a federal duck stamp. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar goes directly to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to purchase or lease wetlands and wildlife habitat for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge System, which supports a wide variety of fish and wild animals.

Want to know more about mussels?

The False Woodpecker is found exclusively in the Guadalupe River Basin. They were thought to have disappeared until a handful of them were rediscovered in 2011.

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“Texas pimplebacks don’t usually have bumps on their shells. That’s why scientists named them pimplebacks. It makes sense…it’s true,” USFWS officials joked in a blog post.

“The Texas cornshell is found only in the Rio Grande and some of its U.S. tributaries. Abundant until the 1960s, the Texas cornshell rapidly declined due to declining water quality and was protected listed as an endangered species under the Federal Endangered Species Act in February 2018,” the blog post read.

Female fatmuckets produce an elaborate fishing lure that resembles a minnow.

A gravid female Texas Fatmucket collected from the San Saba River. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

However, not all mussels are welcome in Texas. The invasive zebra mussel filters the algae necessary for the food of species native to Texas.

Zebra mussels are native to Eurasia and were brought to the United States in the 1980s, according to Waterfront Restoration.

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