photos by AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Clusters of old Zebra mussel shells cling to a piece of equipment at the Norris Dam Marina Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. of shell mussels per person for a main course, and ½ lb. Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-3200 Phone: 865-974-2144 • Fax: 865-974-3827 It was likely always rare in the Minnesota River, where surveys by Bright et al. Mussels serve as indicators of water quality. Crushed shell was used by the Mississippian Period Indians (AD 900–1600) for temper, which was mixed with the clay to strengthen it when fired. One type of relationship that has been observed is between madtom catfishes (Noturus spp.) However, lately, biological problems affecting the survival and production of Japan's pearl producing oysters combined with other factors affecting the cultured pearl industry have reduced the market demand for Tennessee's mussel shells. In a group of invertebrates called bivalve molluscs, freshwater mussels have (1) a two- valved shell, (2) a soft body and (3) a muscular foot. “There’s a huge industry of exports,” says pearl enthusiast India Rows, “for mussel shells that come out of the Tennessee River, and this dates way back to Mikimoto’s time.” Rows … Pearls occur naturally in the freshwater mussels of Tennessee and have been used for jewelry since prehistoric times. The Green River in Kentucky has high fish and macroinvertebrate diversity. With the development of plastics in the 1940s, however, less emphasis was placed on mussels as a button source and native populations began to recover. Companies in Benton County, TN such as Tennessee Shell Company and American Shell Company led the world in providing mother-of-pearl to Japan. The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway. The soft body includes respiratory, reproductive and digestive organs. There is also a page devoted to my painted mussel shells. Thirty-two species of freshwater mussels are exhibited to show variation and diversity correlated in part with habitat. Discard empty shells. ZN 020 During peak harvest years, the commercial mussel shell industry in Tennessee employs approximately 2,000 people and provides nearly $50 million to the Tennessee economy according to an industry spokesman. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture, research collections of freshwater mussels, Prehistoric American Indians in Tennessee. Mussels native to the Tennessee River have a quality that is unlike most species. Within these rivers, there are over 45 mussel species, several of which are found nowhere else but the upper Tennessee drainage. Other uses included scrapers, hoes, and spoons. The siphon is what they use to feed, pulling in water from the river and filtering it. Proper management, protection and monitoring of the surviving native mussel resources are therefore essential to preserve the biologically diverse group of mussels and their use by man. After a few days to several weeks, the glochidia free themselves from the host, drift to the bottom substrate and begin their lives as juvenile mussels. By the ‘60s, business was booming for Tennessee Shell Company. The Pheasantshell, like many mussels, exists only in the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers’ tributaries. The thick shells of these animals—some as big as Frisbees—were destined to be cut into cubes, polished round, and implanted in saltwater oysters to grow cultured pearls. The inside contains two sets of hinge teeth, both used to hold the two valves together (although a few species lack these teeth); a beak cavity; front and rear muscle scars (places where the muscle attaches firmly to the shell); a shiny nacre; and a parallel line (where the mantle attaches). Mussels occur in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, from small ponds, streams to our largest lakes and rivers. They provide many natural benefits. comm.) Food is filtered from the water as it is siphoned across two sets of gills. Judging from the growing number listed as endangered, others may soon follow. https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/fish/fresh-water-mussels-in-tennessee.html The outer part of the shell may be smooth; bumpy; ridged, or have depressions, furrows and wings. The mussel's shell contains several diagnostic characteristics which are helpful in separating different species. Many mussel species are now considered endangered or threatened; some have populations limited to only one or two sites. Back in the 1950s, Tennessee was exporting mussel shells to pearl farmers in Japan who used them as irritants. The washboard is now very rare in the Mississippi (Thiel 1981; M. Davis, Minnesota DNR, pers. Tennessee’s freshwater pearl and mussel shell industry began with the outbreak of a “pearl rush” on the Clinch River in eastern Tennessee just before the turn of the last century. Because they are filter feeders, these bivalves rely on water currents to supply nutrients for growth and reproduction. Hotels near Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm and Museum: (0.00 mi) Birdsong Resort & Marina (7.49 mi) Best Western Home Place Inn (9.21 mi) Days Inn by Wyndham Holladay (8.68 mi) Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park (4.88 mi) Anchor Inn; View all hotels near Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm and Museum on Tripadvisor The exterior or outside of the shell can be described by its length, height, width, color and general appearance. Native American use of freshwater mussels is the subject of a second case. The Japanaese discovered the high-quality of Tennessee River mussel shells in the 1950s and since that time, the market for mussels has been driven by the Japanese Cultured Pearl industry. The foot, often seen extended from between the two valves, aids the mussel in locomotion as well as in burrowing and positioning in the substrate. In addition, the exhibit offers two video segments, one on the life cycle of freshwater mussels and the other on freshwater pearl cultivation in Tennessee. Learn, 1327 Circle Park Drive Their complex life history makes them valuable for research, and they may have many other uses as yet undiscovered. Proper management is one way to enhance and protect the mussels in Tennessee. It may take several (2-9) years before juveniles mature and can reproduce as an adult. Forty-two sites on 23 tributaries in the Harpeth River drainage and a 21-kilometer reach of the main channel were assessed qualitatively for freshwater mussels. Tennessee exports millions of dollars in mussel shells to foreign countries annually. The mussels are an invasive species that is spreading up the Tennessee River system, causing economic and ecological damage. Relic shells of four species were observed in eight sites on four of the tributaries. Glochidia, when released from the female may come in contact with a passing fish and although harmless to their host attach to the gills, fins or body of that fish. In 1912, nearly 200 plants in the United States utilized valves of freshwater mussels for the manufacture of buttons. Thousands of years ago Indians ate freshwater mussels that were concentrated in shoaling places on the Tennessee River. Various shapes (mostly round) were punched out, polished and used in the textile industry. A type 105 license is for residence of the State of Tennessee and a type 107 license is for non-residents. Then they waited five years. At the end of that five years they pulled the mussels up, cracked them open, and harvested the pearls inside. of Education; public domain Email:  museum@utk.edu, The University of Tennessee, KnoxvilleKnoxville, Tennessee 37996 865-974-1000. The life cycle of a mussel is quite complex. C. The taking of mussels is prohibited within 1,000 yards below any TVA or Corps of Engineers Dam. Recently, Tennessee's mussels have gained popularity in the cultured pearl industry. The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. Allow 1 lb. Freshwater mussels will often be buried deep into the river bottom, with only a portion of their shell or siphon showing. The third subject area addresses the commercial role of freshwater mussels. Freshwater mussels have three basic characteristics which help distinguish them from other animals. The beads are front drilled at the top. Statewide Proclamation on the Commercial Taking, Possessing & Selling of Mussels. Toe digging for mussel shells...well, what is a toe digger? This is partially accomplished by understanding the general life history of the animals (how they live, feed, reproduce and grow). (1995). Virginia’s portion of the Tennessee River drainage includes the Powell, Clinch, and Forks of the Holston (North, Middle, and South) rivers. section of the Tennessee River east of the main river channel bounded on the north by Tennessee National Refuge Boundary pilings (approximately River Mile 103.5), and bounded on the south by the Rockport Island light at River Mile 107.8. As both fish and macroinvertebrates have evolved together in this system, relationships have developed between species. The Tennessee River Folk Life Museum is very nearby in Eva and also contains specimens of mussel shells and an old pearling boat with its other exhibits. The outer layer or periostracum is made of protein and serves mainly to protect the shell. The shells were loaded and sold in Tennessee to button factories. Functioning as natural biological filters, they actually clean our lakes, rivers and streams. Under cover of darkness, thieves dove into the inky waters of Tennessee’s river sanctuaries and scooped up endangered washboard mussels by the thousands. Forty-two species known from Tennessee are currently on the federal endangered list. In order to commercially harvest mussels in the State of Tennessee an individual must have a commercial mussel license. Adults may live 60 to 70 years if conditions are right. This helps to protect the reproducing individuals and to improve the chances of more juveniles reaching maturity. In the early 1900s, mussel shells were the primary source material for buttons. I have been painting on them for over 12 years and they are very popular locally and at arts and crafts shows. This species features a unusually thick shell that allows for the three-dimensional shaping of implants to culture pearls. Ecological change is reflected in extinct species, loss of habitat due to water quality, and the introduction of new species—the Asian Clam and the Zebra Mussel. In 1947 Japanese pearlers imported a barge-load of Tennessee River mussels for use in the cultured pearl industry. A "pearl" button industry was established in the Tennessee Valley beginning in 1887, producing buttons from the abundant mussel shells. Tennessee Freshwater Mussels August 22, 2016 Tennessee Freshwater Mussels is divided into three broad subject areas: the biology and diversity of freshwater mussels, the Native American use of freshwater mussels, and the commercial use of freshwater mussels—the button and pearl industries, both cultured and natural. The period from 1895 to 1936 was the beginning of Tennessee’s prominence as one of the nation’s leading states in pearl marketing and production. The largest of the exhibit cases features the biology of freshwater mussels and includes examples of the major groups of mollusks along with the largest living bivalve mollusk, the giant clam from the South Pacific. Unfortunately this decline is continuing at an alarming rate. Mussels themselves serve as food for other animals such as fish, muskrats, raccoons, otters and birds. After a period of time, the cultured pearl is removed from the oyster and used in jewelry production. Several species are already extinct. (However, mussels should not be killed solely for this purpose.) Mussel shells from the Tennessee River played a key role in the creation of cultured pearls, formed when a piece of mussel shell is embedded in an oyster with the subsequent formation of a pearl. selected mussel species in the genera Fusconaia, Pleurobema, and Pleuronaia in the upper Tennessee River basin of Tennessee and Virginia: Table 1. Tennessee shells were thicker and considered easier to implant than those in Japan. The Tennessee River – Mississippi Basin area hosts a unique species of mussel that over 90% of the pearl growers of the world want. Data from live mussels collected at these sites were used to conduct the Shells have a variety of shapes-round, elongate, oval or tear-drop. In 1887, a German pearl-button maker named J. F. Boepple immigrated to the United States. The host of freshwater pearl mussel larvae are juvenile fish from the salmonid family, which includes the Atlantic salmon and sea trout. In 1963, Tennessean John Latendresse began experiments in nucleating various mussel species. It may be shiny, dull, brightly colored or plain all of which assist in the identification of the many species. and St. Croix rivers (Heath 1990), comprising only 1% of the mussels identified by Hornbach et al. These are shells that we harvest from the Tennessee River. When I'm not diving, I devote most of my time to fine-art. The shell is composed of calcium carbonate and protein. The button industry boomed until the development and refinement of plastics following World War II. Weber and Sons Button Company operated at Savannah, Tennessee, until the 1980s, even though plastic buttons had essentially replaced shell products by the late 1950s. Tennessee has in excess of 50 million dollars in annual exports to foreign countries of the shells alone. Bruce cleared it up for us! How do mussels function in the environment? According to Phillip Meadows of Mussel Catchers of Alabama United, musseling has had a long history in Alabama. The new exhibit includes wonderful examples of both natural and cultured Tennessee pearls provided by the American Pearl Company and the Latendresse family. Using a small fork, scrape the mussel meat from its shell. All are affected by pollution, although some are more tolerant than others, so they can be used to monitor levels of water borne pollutants. The museum maintains one of the largest and most important research collections of freshwater mussels in the United States. The first pearl button factory opened in Iowa in 1891, and shells harvested from Alabama was used in some of those factories as early as 1904. As with any natural resource, a limited supply is available. to produce gorgets, beads, and ear pins. The mussel will detach easily from the shell with a slight pull of the fork. The end closest to the beak is the front. Fertilized eggs develop into larvae, called glochidia, within the gills of female mussels. Tennessee’s freshwater pearl and mussel shell industry began with the outbreak of a “pearl rush” on the Clinch River in eastern Tennessee just before the turn of the century. After a period of time (usually 2 to 6 years)a "pearl" results. The exhibit is sponsored by Knox County, the Lucille S. Thompson Family Foundation, and the American Pearl Company Inc. in Nashville. Tennessee Freshwater Mussels is divided into three broad subject areas: the biology and diversity of freshwater mussels, the Native American use of freshwater mussels, and the commercial use of freshwater mussels—the button and pearl industries, both cultured and natural. The actual shell of the animals is of a greater thickness than those found anywhere else in the world. Food was the primary use of freshwater mussels—enormous shell deposits are found at archaeological sites along the Tennessee River. Unlike cultured pearls, which are partially man-made, these pearls are totally made by the mussel. From the beginning, he realized that the seemingly endless supply of freshwater mussel shells, whose beautiful luster and durability will withstand even the severest laundering, would provide the raw material for a new and significant industry in America. The often white shiny layer seen inside the shell is called the nacre, or "mother of pearl." Usually these are just tiny fragments of nacre called "baroques.". Freshwater mussels, collectively called shellfish, clams, bivalves and unionids, belong to an important group of animals known as molluscs. Sections from a mussel shell are cut out, partitioned, rounded, polished, and inserted into oysters as the pearl nuclei. Frequently a single button would be cut from a shell. Each order comes with a pair of matching left and right leaves. Protecting and enhancing the mussels resource is an ultimate goal and primary directive of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. (1990) found only 2 dead shells and no live individuals. Tennessee’s Official State Gem – the freshwater pearl – is rarely found naturally from these living animals, but grown at the only freshwater pearl-culturing farm operation in the North American continent. Each leaf is approximately 34x10mm. The demand for Tennessee mussel shells fluctuates from year to year. These leaf beads are carved from pale blue chalcedony. Since most mussels take several years to become reproductively mature, Tennessee requires that all undersized and non-commercial mussels be immediately returned to the bed or area from where they were taken. The period from 1895 to 1936 was the beginning of Tennessee’s prominence as one of the nation’s leading states in pearl marketing and production. After twenty years of research and development, the first crop of cultured pearls was harvested from a pearl farm on Kentucky Lake. Tours of the Pearl Farm are expensive, but the museum and jewelry show room are free of charge to enjoy. Working with man named Bob Keast Sr. (and several members of Bob Keast's family), he implanted hundreds of Tennessee River Washboard Mussels with small pieces of mussel shells and set them off in the water in nets. Freshwater pearls were occasionally strung or used as insets for eyes on animal effigy pipes. Posted: Feb. 11, 2016. Today, mussel shell is exported for use in the production of cultured pearls. The freshwater pearl was named the State Gem of Tennessee by the legislature in 1979. Tennessee Heelsplitter During the late nineteenth century, freshwater mussel shell was found to be an excellent material for making buttons. Tip. Currently, two to five million pounds of mussel shells with a wholesale value of two to six million dollars are harvested annually. The interior of the shell also displays characteristics that are used to identify mussels. and mussels in the Green River, where madtoms use dead mussel shells as cover when not actively foraging. They efficiently remove silt and suspended organic particles and serve as a basis for studying environmental change over time. Sections from a mussel shell are taken, partitioned, rounded, polished and inserted into an oyster as the nuclei. for an appetizer or side. The type of license that he/she will need to obtain will depend on the person’s residency status. Natural pearls occasionally may be found in freshwater mussels , it is extremely rare to find a commercially valuable pearl (1 in 10,000 mussels). The beak the oldest part of the shell is used to distinguish the front or anterior and rear or posterior part of the mussel. Freshwater mussels will often be buried deep into the river bottom, with only a portion of their shell or siphon showing. The larvae, known as glochidia, resemble tiny mussels, but their minute shells are held open until they snap shut on a suitable host. Approximately 80 percent of the mussel shells exported from the United States are harvested in Tennessee. Tennessee River Pearls, the Official State Gem TN.Gov, Dept. The mollusk deposits layers and layers of this substance until finally a pearl is formed. Mussels have a long history of cultural use- the peoples that inhabited what is now eastern Tennessee for thousands of years before Europeans used mussel shells as decorative objects and tools, and there are archaeological images of the huge middens of shells that they used for food. To avoid chewy and overcooked mussels, add mussels to a recipe before serving. An individual mussel can filter 15-18 or more gallons of water per day, storing pollutants in the shell as it continues to grow over its lifespan. Tennessee river pearls are taken from mussels in the fresh water rivers and come in various shapes and colors. Locality information for sites sampled for freshwater mussels in the Tennessee River basin from 2012 through 2014. The two- valved shell is secreted by the mantle, a membrane-like tissue which surrounds the soft parts. They were first discovered in the Great Lakes area in the United States. It ... Potters of the Mississippian Culture used crushed mussel shell mixed into clay to make their pottery stronger. They are 100% natural pearl all the way through. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture The shells of native Tennessee mussels are ideal for the lucrative cultured pearl industry. The front part of the bead is detailed with vein carvings, while the back is all smooth. A true pearl results from a natural foreign object becoming lodged within the shell of a mollusc which covers it in multiple layers of nacre. As a result thousands of pounds of mussels were taken each year, often with little regard for efficiency. Interestingly, Native Americans did not use freshwater mussels for ornaments, using instead marine shells such as the whelk (Busycon sp.) 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