Deertoe

Family: 
Unionidae (freshwater mussels) in the phylum Mollusca
Description: 

Shell is solid, thick, inflated, mostly triangular; prominent posterior ridge drawn to a rounded point at the posterior end. Umbo is wide and raised above hinge line. Epidermis is yellowish-brown to brown; numerous green rays vary in width with spots, zigzags or most often V-shapes (chevrons); sometimes without rays. Inside shell beak cavity is moderately deep; pseudocardinal teeth are triangular, grooved and well developed; lateral teeth are short, thin, grooved and straight to slightly curved; nacre (lining) white, rarely pinkish-salmon.

Similar species: Butterfly has a flattened appearance and less developed rays. Fawnsfoot is easily confused with the deertoe, but is longer with a less prominent dorsal ridge and more distinct zigzag marks covering the shell.

Size: 
Adult length: up to 3 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Medium to large rivers with moderate to swift current in a variety of substrates from mud-gravel to larger rocks and in water depths from several inches to a few feet.
Foods: 
Algae and fine particles of decaying organic matter; extracts nutrients and oxygen from water drawn into the body cavity through a specialized gill called the incurrent siphon; sediment and undigested waste are expelled through the excurrent siphon.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Sporadic, may be locally common where found. Southeastern Missouri, Salt River in eastern Missouri, and in an east-west band in north-flowing rivers draining the Salem and Springfield plateaus.
Status: 
Locally common where found.
Life cycle: 
Males release sperm directly into water. Females downstream siphon sperm into the gill chamber, where eggs are fertilized. Eggs mature into larvae (called glochidia), which discharge into the water and attach to host fish--for this species, the sauger and freshwater drum. The tiny mussel eventually breaks away and floats to the bottom of the stream, and the cycle repeats.
Human connections: 
Mussels are excellent biological indicators of water quality because they are long-lived and relatively immobile, accumulating contaminants in water that can be scientifically analyzed.
Ecosystem connections: 
Mussels act as nature's “vacuum cleaners,” filtering and cleansing polluted waters. They are also an important food source for other species in the aquatic environment.