Fragile Papershell can be found up to depths of 20 feet, but this species reaches its greatest population density at normal water levels of 3 feet or less.
- Size: Length up to 6 inches
- Shape: Oval or oblong in shape shell with a rounded posterior and anterior end and compressed valves. Thin, with a dorsal wing in younger specimens. Beak is low and only slightly elevated above the hinge line,
- Periostracum: Younger individuals are light yellow-tan, sometimes with green bands. Older specimens tend to be darker yellow-brown.
- Lateral Teeth: Long and thin; two in the left valve, one in the right.
- Pseudocardinal Teeth: Small; two in the left valve, one in the right.
- Nacre: Iridescent; bluish-white or yellowish, pink or purple under the umbo
- Similar Species: Pink Heelsplitter
- State and Global Rank: S2 G5
- Vermont Conservation Status: Endangered
- Vermont Wildlife Action Plan: Species of Greatest Conservation Need
This species is tolerant of a variety of aquatic habitats and current strengths. It can be found in streams of all sizes, rivers, and lakes in sand, mud, or gravel.
It inhabits the Missisquoi (Swanton and Highgate), Lamoille (Milton and Colchester), Winooski (Burlington and Colchester), and Poultney (West Haven) rivers, and Otter Creek (Ferrisburgh and Vergennes), only below their principal fall-lines. It has been found in littoral areas of Lake Champlain near the deltas of the Lamoille and Winooski Rivers. This is not a common species; the greatest densities have been recorded in the lower Poultney River.
Distribution map has locations where this species has been documented and digitized into the atlas database. Systematic surveys have not been conducted for many species and those surveys that have been conducted have been largely focused on endangered species. Therefore, in some cases, the actual distribution of freshwater mussels may be more extensive than what is presented here. Shaded areas are watershed sub-basins and river main stems are shown.