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Fanshell populations are found from the Ohio River basin in Illinois across to Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Being stationary filter feeders, they are highly sensitive to any changes in water quality. Their habitat is negatively affected by the creation of dams, levies, manmade channels, and the dredging of rivers. Because they live a long time, any pollution leaves them vulnerable to toxin accumulations. This species is federally endangered and possession of mussels is illegal in West Virginia, with a permit required to collect them for scientific purposes.