Mussel Features

Easy and accurate use of this guide relies on a familiarity with mussel shell features. The tabs below open to display images and descriptions of the most important of these, illustrating them with typical examples from metro area specimens. Most of our taxa are relatively easy to identify by careful use of these external features alone; for problematic taxa, a key to area species has been provided by the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program.

To aid in the conservation of living mussels, only the shell features are illustrated. Use of the soft tissues and internal organs, often used for accurate determination of genera, requires the death of the animal and its careful preservation. The killing of mussels for identification is strongly discouraged, as it is rarely required in our area to make an accurate determination. In addition, many of our species are legally protected by state and federal law. Careful observation, notetaking, photography, and examination of spent shells are recommended instead. For information on regulations governing the collection of mussel specimens or spent shells, please go to: Permits