Over 50 species of mussels call Texas home, and many of them serve an essential function in the rivers and lakes of the state. These mussels have been called the “livers of the rivers” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 

They can filter as much as 15 gallons of water a day, KSAT reported. The Texas hornshell, Texas pimpleback, Texas fawnsfoot, Texas fatmucket, and false spike are some of the most commonly spotted mussels in the state. 

Officials for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service shared in a blog post that these mussels are declining due to multiple threats

“Unfortunately, many of these native mussel species are declining due to habitat loss, declines in water quality, changes in stream flow rates, and major impoundments (dams). Climate change is expected to make these threats worse with high water temperatures and more frequent droughts and floods,” the blog post states. 

Freshwater mussels can be benefited in various ways, according to KSAT. You can support Texas wildlife by buying a federal duck stamp, limiting the spread of invasive species, and volunteering at hatcheries or wildlife refuges. 

“Put your stamp on conservation by purchasing a federal Duck Stamp,” the USFWS blog post states. “Ninety-eight cents of every dollar go directly into 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 wildlife.”

Texans can limit the spread of invasive species by removing mud, seeds, small animals, and plants from their shoes, vehicle, or gear after spending time in nature, according to KSAT. Invasive species can also hitch rides on pets. 

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service blog post shares information about the four common mussel species found in Texas. 

False spike mussels were considered extinct until 2011, when they were rediscovered. These mussels are only found in the Guadalupe River basin and not anywhere else in the world. According to the blog post, these are harder to spot than other species. 

The Texas hornshell has been declining since the 1960s, and in 2018 they were classified as endangered. 

“Texas pimplebacks typically don’t have any bumps on their shells,” the blog post explains. “That’s why scientists named them pimplebacks. Makes sense… right?”

The Texas Fawnsfoot was named because putting two of these small mussels beside each other looks like the hoof of a white-tailed deer. 

These mussels are essential to Texas lakes and rivers, but species like the zebra mussel are considered invasive, according to KSAT. The zebra mussel is believed to have come over in the 1980s from Eurasia. They were found in 2017, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife have reported that 28 lakes in the state are infested. 

John Tibbs from the Texas Parks and Wildlife told KSAT on May 30, “When they grow, they clog up pipes. They get all over boats. They just basically destroy infrastructure.”

In Canyon Lake, the issue is worse because the lake is also the community’s water source. These mussels are mainly spread by hitching rides on boats.