August 13, 2008

Mussel to Be Declared Extinct — Species No Longer Seen in Southern Waters

LITTLE ROCK - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to declare extinct the turgid-blossom pearly mussel, a species once found in the Black and White rivers in Arkansas and other parts of the South.

That particular mussel species has been on the endangered species list since 1976. Wildlife officials say a five-year review found no sign of the mussel.

"We really have no idea what caused it (to become extinct)," Jim Widlak, a fish and wildlife biologist, told the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette. "In the area the species occurred, there are still excellent mussel communities. Other species are doing very well. What we are thinking is maybe these particular species ... are very sensitive to some kind of disturbance or pollutant."

The Fish and Wildlife Service will now begin the process to declare the species extinct, and will accept public comment on the proposed declaration.

The turgid-blossom pearly mussel lived in the Tennessee River and Cumberland River drainages in Tennessee as well as in Spring Creek, the Black River and the White River in Arkansas and in Shoal Creek and Bear Creek in Alabama.

The review found that the last known collection of turgid- blossom pearly mussels was found in the Duck River in Tennessee in 1965.

"I have never seen one except in a museum before," said John Harris, a mussel expert and the assistant division head with the environmental division of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. "It is disappointing that we haven't been able to find it."

Arkansas is home to between 75 and 85 species of freshwater mussels, Harris said. Among those, eight have been placed in the federally endangered category.

Originally published by Associated Press .

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