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|Freshwater pearl mussel|
|The exterior of the shell of Margaritifera margaritifera|
|Distribution of Margaritifera margaritifera in Europe.|
Although the name "freshwater pearl mussel" is often used for this species, other freshwater mussel species (e.g. Margaritifera auricularia) can also create pearls and some can also be used as a source of mother of pearl. Most cultured pearls today come from Hyriopsis species in Asia, or Amblema species in North America, both members of the related family Unionidae; pearls are also found within species in the genus Unio.
The interior of the shell of Margaritifera margaritifera has thick nacre (the inner mother of pearl layer of the shell). This species is capable of making fine-quality pearls, and was historically exploited in the search for pearls from wild sources. In recent times, the Russian malacologist Valeriy Zyuganov received worldwide reputation after he discovered that the pearl mussel exhibited negligible senescence and he determined that it had a maximum lifespan of 210–250 years. The data of V. V. Zyuganov have been confirmed by Finnish malacologists and gained general acceptance.