Following the extinction of seven others, the last native mussel species in New Mexico finally has federal protection under the Endangered Species Act after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it has listed the Texas hornshell mussel as endangered.
An endangered listing indicates the species is in imminent danger of extinction throughout its range.
First identified as a listing candidate in 1989, “higher listing priorities” prevented the agency from further action, according to the listing rule. In 2011, the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups settled combined lawsuits with the agency, resulting in a six-year workplan for Fish and Wildlife Service to address its backlog of hundreds of species that had been waiting for protection – some, like the hornshell, for decades. Click on the following paragraph to access the full story.
The mussels are threatened by water impoundments and poor water quality from the oil and gas industry, agricultural runoff, and grazing, in addition to fragmentation of their habitat, drought, loss of native species and invasion by exotic species. Many freshwater mussels are dependent on native fish species for their reproduction. Fish eat the mussel larvae, which then form cysts in the fish’s gills, face or fins until they grow into the juvenile form and are released.