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Black Sandshell

Fact File

Scientific Name: Ligumia recta

Classification: Freshwater Mussel, Family Unionidae

Conservation Status:

Life Span: Up to 25 years

Distribution: Found in the streams of Southwest Virginia. It is native to the upper Tennessee River Basin and occupies shallow to deep runs with sand, and gravel substrate.


Freshwater mussels require fish hosts in order to complete their unique lifecycle. The larva must catch a ride on the gills of the unsuspecting fish, who distribute them far from their mother. The host of Black Sandshell is the Walleye, a popular game species that DWR works to stock in streams throughout the state. Walleye anglers would know that this particular fish feeds on small minnows in the early morning and late evening hours. Black Sandshell uses a mantle lure that mimics the same baitfish during those same times of day.

Role in the Web of Life

Like all freshwater mussels, the Black Sandshell constantly filters water for food. Through this process, it keeps the rivers clean for animals and humans alike!


DWR’s Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) in Marion has been producing juveniles of this mussel to supplement declining populations, since 2003. Staff, there, have propagated and stocked more than 3,000 individuals to targeted river restoration sites in southwest Virginia. As recently as 2021, biologists surveyed these restoration sites and recovered live individuals stocked ten years ago.

Species Profile Authors: Tim Lane, Sarah Colletti, Joe Ferraro, and Tiffany Leach

Last updated: August 19, 2023