Conservation implications of late Holocene freshwater mussel remains of the Leon River in central Texas
Zooarchaeology is the study of animal remains (bone, shell, antler, and other organic tissues) from archaeological sites, which can provide conservation biologists with data on human–environmental interactions with greater time depth than historical records. Such data are of interest because they can be used to study whether or not contemporary animal communities (in this case of freshwater mussels) have changed in terms of species composition or range as a result of human-induced changes to habitat, which is essential for determining a species’ conservation status and formulating actions to protect remaining populations. This study considers whether or not the taxonomic composition of the freshwater mussel community from the Leon River in central Texas differs between the late Holocene and today. Specifically, we analyzed two zooarchaeological assemblages and compared those results with recent surveys conducted within the Leon River. Three species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act are found in the zooarchaeological record, of which two are now extirpated from the river basin (Truncilla macrodon and Fusconaia mitchelli). The results of this study provide an example of how zooarchaeological data can be used to evaluate mussel community change through time and provide evidence of range curtailment for threatened mussel species.