Freshwater bivalve extinctions (mollusca: unionoida): a search for causes

Vol. 33( ) 599-609

The freshwater bivalves (Mollusca: Order Unionoida) are classified in six families and about 165 genera worldwide. Worldwide rate of extinction of freshwater bivalves is poorly understood at this time. The North American freshwater fauna north of Mexico is represented by 297 taxa in two families. There are 19 taxa presumed extinct, 44 species listed or proposed as federally endangered, and there are another 69 species that may be endangered. A number of these endangered species are functionally extinct (individuals of a species surviving but not reproducing). Extinction of North American unionoid bivalves can be traced to impoundment and inundation of riffle habitat in major rivers such as the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland and Mobile Bay Basin. Damming resulted in the local loss of the bivalves' host fish. This loss of the obligate host fish, coupled with increased siltation, and various types of industrial and domestic pollution have resulted in the rapid decline in the unionoid bivalve fauna in North America. Freshwater communities in Europe have experienced numerous problems, some local unionoid populations have been extirpated, but no unionoid species are extinct. Three taxa from Israel are now reported as extinct. Other nations such as China that have problems with soil erosion and industrial pollution or have numerous dams on some of the rivers (e.g. South America: Rio Parana) are probably experiencing problems of local extirpation if not the extinction of their endemic freshwater bivalve fauna


Bogan, A.E.