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Lampsilis teres

What do they look like?

The yellow sandshell's shell is yellow, shiny, and smooth, and can grow to 190 mm long. In males, the back end of the shell is pointed, while it is rounded in females. The inner shell is white. (Johnson, et al., 2001; "Species profile:Minnesota DNR", 2014; "Lampsilis teres (Rafinesque, 1820) Yellow Sandshell", 2014)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Range length
    60 to 190 mm
    2.36 to 7.48 in

Where do they live?

Yellow sandshells (Lampsilis teres) are found throughout much of the United States and northern Mexico. In Mexico, they are found in Coahuila and Nuevo León. In the United States, these mollusks are native from Minnesota to Texas, Nebraska to New York, and Florida to Kansas. This species appears in the Mississippi River drainage and the Gulf drainages as well. (Cummings and Cordeiro, 2013)

What kind of habitat do they need?

The yellow sandshell mussel lives in small streams, large rivers, lakes, pounds, and reservoirs. Yellow sandshells may be found in slow or fast moving currents, and their preferred habitat is along the banks of muddy rivers. ("Species profile:Minnesota DNR", 2014; Roe, 2010)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • benthic
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

How do they grow?

Male yellow sandshells release sperm into the water, and it is carrie ddownstream to the females. This fertilizes the eggs, and the eggs sit inside pouches in the gills of the female. They hatch into larvae called glochidia. Glochidia are parasites and need to attach to a fish to complete development. The female uses a part of her body called the mantle to attract the attention of fish. Fish think the mantle looks like a small fish they can eat, so when they come in to investigate, the female mussel clamps down on the fish and releases the glochidia. The glochidia attach to the fish and stay there for 3 days to 10 months. When they develop into juvenile mussels, they drop off the fish and onto the river or lake bottom, where they will grow into adult mussels. (O'Brien and Tignor, 2014; "Freshwater Mussels of the Upper Mississippi River System", 2006)

How do they reproduce?

In the summer, male mussels release sperm into the water. The water carries the sperm to female mussels where it enters their bodies through a tube called the incurrent siphon. ("Freshwater Mussels of the Upper Mississippi River System", 2006)

Yellow sandshells reproduce in the summer. After fertilization, the females store the eggs in pouches in their gills. The eggs hatch into larvae called glochidia, and the glochidia stay there until the following spring. (O'Brien and Tignor, 2014; Roe, 2010)

  • Breeding season
    Spawning occurs during a few months in the summer.
  • Range number of offspring
    a few thousand to several million

Female yellow sandshells provide parental care. They keep the eggs and then later the hatched glochidia in special pouches in the gills. The glochidia are parasites and need to attach to a fish to complete development. Female parents help with that by using their body part called the mantle to attract fish. Fish think it is food, so when they come to investigate, the female mussel releases the glochidia into the water so that they can attach to the fish. Once the glochidia are released, they get no more parental care. (O'Brien and Tignor, 2014; Roe, 2010)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

It is not known how long yellow sandshell mussels live, but many other freshwater mussel species live for decades. Some even live as long as 100 years.

How do they behave?

The yellow sandshell is usually found in mussel beds along with many different species of mussels. These mussels spend most of their lives buried in the mud and dirt at the bottom of rivers and lakes. They do not move around much, though they do have a muscular foot that they use to push and pull themselves around when necessary. When yellow sandshells are glochidia, they are parasites on fish. ("Lampsilis teres - (Rafinesque, 1820)", 2013; Hove, 2014; "Species profile:Minnesota DNR", 2014; O'Brien and Tignor, 2014)

Home Range

How do they communicate with each other?

There is little known about the senses yellow sandshells use. Most mussels are able to detect changes in water temperature, changes in light, and physical touch. ("Lampsilis teres - (Rafinesque, 1820)", 2013)

What do they eat?

Yellow sandshell mussels filter their food from the water. They eat protozoans, bacteria, algae, as well as phytoplankton and zooplankaton. Water enters their bodies through a tube called the incurrent siphon. When the water reaches the gills, the food particles are filtered out of the water and brought to the mouth and stomach. The water then leaves the body through another tube called the excurrent siphon. ("Lampsilis teres - (Rafinesque, 1820)", 2013; "Species profile:Minnesota DNR", 2014)

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Yellow sandshells are eaten by many mammals, waterfowl, and fish. The only way they can escape predators is to bury themselves in the mud or gravel in the bottom of rivers and lakes. Their hard shells also protect their soft inner body. ("Lampsilis teres - (Rafinesque, 1820)", 2013; "Species profile:Minnesota DNR", 2014)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

While filter feeding, yellow sandshells filter particles out of the water, which makes the water clearer and cleaner. They are a part of the food chain, as many different animals feed on them. Glochidia are parasites of many species of fish. ("Yellow Sandshell", 2014; Roe, 2010)

Species (or larger taxonomic groups) used as hosts by this species

Do they cause problems?

Yellow sandshell mussels do not cause any problems for humans.

How do they interact with us?

People use yellow sandshells to make pearls and buttons. Scientists can also study mussels, since mussels can show how healthy an aquatic environment is. If there are healthy mussels, the habitat is fine. If mussels are dying or are contaminated with pollutants, then scientists know something is wrong in the habitat and needs to be fixed. ("Yellow Sandshell", 2014)

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • research and education

Are they endangered?

Yellow sandshells are considered endangered species in several midwestern states, including Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio. They have also been discovered to be extinct in some states such as Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. There have been studies done to learn more information about these mussels and their environments. If people better understand these mussels, it will be easier to prevent them from becoming extinct. (Hove, 2014; "Species profile:Minnesota DNR", 2014; Roe, 2010; "Lampsilis teres (Rafinesque, 1820) Yellow Sandshell", 2014)


Matt Steele (author), Minnesota State University Mankato, Robert Sorensen (editor), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006. "Freshwater Mussels of the Upper Mississippi River System" (On-line). Life History. Accessed April 22, 2014 at

2013. "Lampsilis teres - (Rafinesque, 1820)" (On-line). NatureServe Explorer. Accessed April 23, 2014 at

University of Illinois Board of Trustees. 2014. "Lampsilis teres (Rafinesque, 1820) Yellow Sandshell" (On-line). Illinois Natural History Survey Prairie Research Institute. Accessed April 21, 2014 at

Geological Survey of Alabama. Results of Analysis of The Freshwater Mussel Fauna in The Alabama River Downstream of Claiborne and Millers Ferry Locks and Dams, 2006-07. OPEN-FILE REPORT 0708. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Geological Survey of Alabama. 2007. Accessed March 25, 2014 at

MN DNR. 2014. "Species profile:Minnesota DNR" (On-line). Lampsilis teres Yellow Sandshell. Accessed April 21, 2014 at

Conservation Commission of Missouri. 2014. "Yellow Sandshell" (On-line). mdconline Missouri Department of Conservation. Accessed April 14, 2014 at

Cummings, K., J. Cordeiro. 2013. "Lampsilis teres" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 21, 2014 at

Hove, M. 2014. "Encyclopedia of Life" (On-line). Yellow sandshell-Morphology. Accessed April 07, 2014 at

Johnson, P., K. Lellis, W. Michener, M. Freeman, C. Pringle. 2001. "Mussels (Family: Unionidae) of the Lower Flint River Basin with 1999 Stream Habitat and Mussel Community Survey Methods" (On-line). Accessed April 04, 2014 at

O'Brien, C., B. Tignor. 2014. "Attracting a host fish is hard work" (On-line). Accessed April 22, 2014 at

Roe, K. 2010. "Conservation Assessment The Yellow Sandshell, Lampsilis teres (Rafinesque, 1820)" (On-line). Accessed April 08, 2014 at

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Steele, M. 2014. "Lampsilis teres" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 01, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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