There are about 173 mussel species and subspecies in Alabama, 11 of which have never been found outside of Alabama. Freshwater mussels basically do two things: filter feed and reproduce. Though they seem simple, they have a diverse anatomy. The following is just an example of some of the anatomy of freshwater mussels.
The gills are used for filter feeding. The foot is usually required when it comes to reproduction. In order to reproduce, mussels produce glochidia, which are basically juvenile mussels. These glochidia require a host fish in order to transform into an adult mussel. Sometimes these glochidia can just be released into the flowing water and attach to their host fish, but more often, the parent mussel uses its foot to attract the host fish. Below are some pictures of mussels using their foot as a lure.
Lampsilini: Villosa iris (this one is using its foot to look like a crayfish to attract its host fish which feeds on crayfish)
Mussels are a lot more complex than they seem to be and can be easily found if you’re in the right place. Bogue Chitto Creek near Marion, AL is an area that has a high mussel species richness.
Photos taken from Dr. Huryn’s Freshwater Studies class in Fall 2013.