Researchers participated in a salvage operation for mussels stranded during a drawdown of the Illinois River near Marseilles, Illinois, to retrieve seven barges that had broken free and gotten pinned on the dam a few months prior. During this operation, Kevin Cummings, state malacologist and one of around 25 biologists helping with the census and salvage found a live Scaleshell—which hadn’t been documented alive in Illinois for over a century.
“Few people in the world would have recognized they were holding anything special, but Cummings has spent decades assessing museum collections around the world to create an accurate database of Illinois mussels. ‘One of these things is not like the others,’ is what he told me he thought when he picked it up. Without any prompting from Cummings, his INHS crew came up with the same identification, and that was later confirmed by DNA analysis by Kevin Roe of Iowa State University, an authority on the genetics of the scaleshell.”