© Bruce McNitt/Panoramic Images (Virginia)

Appalachian Monkeyface Pearly Mussel

The Appalachian Monkeyface Pearly Mussel is a medium-sized mussel measuring about 2-3/4 inches. It is a bivalve, with its outer shell layer or periostracum, being yellow-green to brown in color with small raised greenish triangles. The shell is heavy and has numerous small tubercles on the anterior and behind the beak; the raised portion of the top of the shell. The nacre, or interior layer is composed of shingle-like crystals of calcium carbonate, is white on the monkeyface, and its beak cavity is deep. This lustrous interior is what is known as mother-of-pearl.


In Virginia, remnant populations exist in parts of the Clinch and Powell rivers.


This mussel inhabits shallow riffles, runs, and shoal areas of fast-flowing headwater streams with rubble, gravel, or sandy bottoms relatively free of silt. At one time its population was thought to be widespread in the Tennessee River drainage, but dams, pollution, and siltation have been major contributors to their demise.


Mussels are filter feeders, feeding on detritus, bacteria, phytoplankton, diatoms, zooplankton, algae and protozoa. The gills move the small food particles to the mouth.

More Information

Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service: Appalachian Monkeyface Pearly Mussel

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan

NatureServe Explorer: Appalachian Monkeyface Pearly Mussel

Go to the Map

Use the interactive map to zoom smoothly from a national view to state and local perspectives anywhere across the country.

Copyright © 2023 NatureServe. All Rights Reserved.