Natural Highlights: Pistolgrip Mussel

  Pistolgrip (Tritogonia verrucosa)

Budding paddler and naturalist, Cooper Blevins, all of 3 years old and the  grandson of Jeff and Eileen Sojourner, found several large living native mussels during the annual Stream Stroll at Bateman Bridge.  The largest was a beautiful Pistolgrip Mussel (Tritogonia verrucosa), one of the easiest mussels to identify because of the distinct ridge on its shell. Unlike some of our native mussel populations, Pistolgrips seem to be holding their own. Cooper most likely found a female Pistolgrip, more elongate than the males, and we hope that she will continue to produce numerous offspring so that when Cooper brings his own grandkids wading at Bateman, they might find a Pistolgrip, too!  Keeping Pistolgrips and our other wonderful native mussel species around is just one more reason the Wolf River Conservancy is dedicated to the protection of the Wolf River and its watershed.

Pistolgrips like medium to large, slow-moving rivers with sand or gravel bottoms, on which they can slowly move around using a hatchet-shaped muscle called a foot, and where they filter out food particles from the water using siphons. One tube-like siphons sucks water in, the other spits it back out.  Most mussels depend on a fish host to complete their reproductive cycle; the larvae (glochidia) attach to a fish's gills for a while, later falling off to the bottom of the stream where they spend the rest of their lives.  The known host fishes for Pistolgrips are brown and yellow bullheads and flathead catfish. Our more endangered mussels species sometimes depend on a single rare species of fish to reproduce; thus, as the fish goes, so goes the mussel.  For more information on the Pistolgrip, visit

  Cooper and the Pistolgrip  


           More Wolf River mussels:  Fatmucket, Pimpleback


Posted by Cathy Justis at 10:26 PM