MARCH 22, 2004 - Posted at 3:27 p.m. CDT
POPLAR BLUFF, MO - They may lack the importance of the bald eagle on the endangered species list. But one fairly mundane endangered creature is home in the murky Black River waters that run through Poplar Bluff.
One biological researcher says he found beneath the bridges of the southeast Missouri town a habitat for federally endangered and threatened freshwater mussels. Christian Hutson spent last summer traversing the Black River, researching the shelled organisms.
And while these organisms inspire the same affection as some of the nation's other endangered species, Hutson says they're an integral part of river ecology.
Mussels are good indicators of the overall health and quality of a river habitat. If mussels in a certain area disappear, it's a warning that the waterway is being affected.