The Flat Pigtoe Mussel and the Plight of Freshwater Mussels

This is the Flat Pigtoe Mussel, one of eight freshwater mussel species delisted from the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2021.

It is the latest block completed for my “Extinct 23” redwork quilt project. The goal of this project is to raise awareness about the precious things that have been lost and the urgency for saving what we have left as a million species stand to disappear due to our current ecological crisis.

This mussel was once found in rivers in Mississippi and Alabama but has not been seen since 1980. According to Wikipedia, “This mussel was last seen in a stretch of the Tombigbee River before the habitat was destroyed by the installation of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.”

Source: earth.com

Freshhwater mussels are some of the most imperiled groups in the U.S. despite being crucially important to the health of waterways. They are also what are often called “uncharismatic” species that don’t garner the sympathy, attention, and funding of species like pandas and tigers. Even so, invertebrates are essential in every ecosystem.

I have to confess, I fell for the charisma trap myself. I have been focusing more on the birds and mammals of the list. The breathtaking number of mussels on the list –over a third of the list! — should give us all pause.

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