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Eastern elliptio (Elliptio complanata)

Eastern elliptioPhotograph courtesy of E. Nedeau

NH Conservation Status: Not listed


NH State Rank Status: Secure (global – Secure)


Distribution: All major watersheds in NH. See which watersheds and/or waterbodies PDF Document the species has been documented.


Description: Highly variable in coloration, size, and shape. A medium-sized mussel up to 5 inches, from tan to brown or black. The foot is white.


Commonly Confused Species: Eastern pearlshell, creeper, eastern lampmussel


Habitat: Found in lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers in all substrate types. Not likely to occur in high gradient streams where no other mussels occur.


Life History: Uses a large number of host fish including yellow and white perch, large- and smallmouth bass, sunfish, and pickerel.


Conservation Threats: Species is secure. The eastern elliptio is by far the most common species of freshwater mussel in NH. The species has an important role in filtering water and nutrient cycling and therefore water quality. Because of the species abundance and important role as both prey and water filtration, this species is among the most valuable benthic organisms to local ecosystems.


eastern elliptio

The eastern elliptio can vary considerably in size, shape, and color. Photo by M. Marchand.


eastern elliptio

The eastern elliptio is the most common mussel in NH reaching incredible densities in some areas. Photo by E. Nedeau


eastern elliptio

The eastern elliptio is fairly tolerant of a range of water conditions. However, high water temperatures were too much for even this elliptio to survive. Photo by M. Marchand.