Date: 12.01.2018

The role of fish in freshwater mussels conservation

Freshwater mussels are among the most threatened faunal groups on Earth. Their life cycle is usually complex, with their larvae using fish for dispersion. Therefore, fishes plays a significant role in the conservation status of mussels worldwide.

Our study scrutinized the information present in the literature by systematically extracting data from 205 papers. Freshwater mussel species were reported to infest between one and 53 fish species, with some fish families (e.g., Cyprinidae and Percidae) being used more often as hosts than others (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Chord diagram with the interaction of the freshwater mussels’ subfamilies (or families in the case of Hyriidae, Iridinidae and Margaritiferidae) and the fish host families used.


Eight per cent (27 of 326) of the fish host species retrieved in this review are either threatened (CR, EN or VU) or near threatened (NT), a proportion that rose to 41% (67 of 164) for freshwater mussels. With the inclusion of fish and mussel species in the IUCN Red List being quite uneven across taxa and geographic regions (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Global distribution patterns of the IUCN Red List assessments of freshwater fish (left) and freshwater mussels (right). Total number of species: Freshwater fishes (Europe = 481; Asia = 4,411; North America = 1,741; South America = 4,231; Africa = 3,240; Australia = 577; total = 14,681); Freshwater mussels (Europe = 18; Asia = 348; North America = 247; South America = 156; Africa = 82; Australia = 33; Total = 884).


Our paper highlights that fulfilling the knowledge gaps on the ecological mechanisms in fish-mussel relationship can be essential to design effective management strategies capable of halting the alarming extinction rates of freshwater mussels.


Modesto V, Ilarri M, Souza AT, Lopes-Lima M, Douda K, Clavero M, Sousa R (2017) Fish and mussels: Importance of fish for freshwater mussel conservation. Fish and Fisheries. doi: 10.1111/faf.12252




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