Changing perspectives on pearly mussels, North America's most imperiled animals

David L. Strayer, John A. Downing, Wendell R. Haag, Timothy L. King, James B. Layzer, Teresa J. Newton, S. Jerrine Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

487 Scopus citations


Pearly mussels (Unionacea) are widespread, abundant, and important in freshwater ecosystems around the world. Catastrophic declines in pearly mussel populations in North America and other parts of the world have led to a flurry of research on mussel biology, ecology, and conservation. Recent research on mussel feeding, life history, spatial patterning, and declines has augmented, modified, or overturned long-held ideas about the ecology of these animals. Pearly mussel research has begun to benefit from and contribute to current ideas about suspension feeding, life-history theory, metapopulations, flow refuges, spatial patterning and its effects, and management of endangered species. At the same time, significant gaps in understanding and apparent paradoxes in pearly mussel ecology have been exposed. To conserve remaining mussel populations, scientists and managers must simultaneously and aggressively pursue both rigorous research and conservation actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-439
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article was inspired by a workshop held in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in October 2002, sponsored by the US Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center and organized by Teresa Newton. We appreciate the comments and ideas of the workshop participants, Caryn Vaughn, and an anonymous reviewer. The coauthors are listed in alphabetical order. We thank Chris Barnhart for his photographs and Patty Van Meter for her technical help. Original work on the Hudson River was supported by National Science Foundation grant no. 0075265. This is a contribution to the program of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies.


  • Endangered species
  • Food and feeding
  • Life history
  • Spatial structure
  • Unionidae


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