Mulinia coloradoensis is the junior synonym of Mulinia modesta, a species of clam endemic to the northern and central Gulf of California. The clam is known to live in both brackish and fully marine habitats. It is a shallow-water filter feeder that prefers mud-sand bottoms.
Prior to the diversion of water upstream in the Colorado River, this species might have been the most common mollusc in the Colorado River delta, in the extreme northwestern region of the northern Gulf of California. It has been estimated to have constituted 80-90% of the clams throughout the delta and was so abundant that heaps of the shells formed ridges that stretched for miles. The density of Mulinia modesta has estimated to have been reduced from 25 to 50 per square meter to three per square meter.
It has been hypothesized that the increase in salinity of the water and decrease of nutrient input from the river as a result of diversion and use of water led to the decline of the clam in the extreme northeastern region of the upper Gulf of California. The clams are not harvested and are not affected by pressure from fishing.
Studies of the clam have been used to infer the original extent the estuary in the absence of earlier survey data. Shells of the clam became sharply less prevalent about 65 km south of the river's mouth, constituting only 25% of shells in this area, and becoming rare to absent at a distance of 80 km. These observations have been used to infer that the mixing zone of river and sea water probably extended as far as 65 km south of the river's mouth. Isotope analysis of oxygen in the shells of the clam have also been used to independently estimate rates of salinity, and the results from this approach were found to correspond with observations of the prevalence of the clam shells, and also to agree with numerical models proposed in the past.
Damage to shells was used to assess the trophic importance of this species, and it was found to be a major source of food for crabs and predatory gastropods. On the basis of these studies, it was predicted that restoration of water flow in the Colorado river would result in an increase in this species, which would result in an increase of species that depend on it for food, including commercially valuable crabs.
- Carlie A. Rodriguez, Karl W. Flessa, David Le Dettman, "Effects of Upstream Diversion of Colorado River Water on the Estuarine Bivalve Mollusc Mulinia coloradoensis", Conservation Biology, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 249-258, Feb. 2001.
- Karl W. Flessa, D.L. Dettman,"THE SOURCE OF SUSTENANCE FOR SIPHONING SHELLFISH IN THE COLORADO RIVER ESTUARY: NITROGEN ISOTOPES IN BIVALVE SHELLS REVEAL CHANGES IN NUTRIENT DELIVERY", GSA Denver Annual Meeting, Oct. 2007.
- John D. All, "Colorado River Floods, Droughts, and Shrimp Fishing in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico", Environmental Management, Vol. 37, No. 1, Jan, 2006.
- CA Rodriguez, KW Flessa, DL Dettman, "Macrofaunal and isotopic estimates of the former extent of the Colorado River Estuary, upper Gulf of California, Mexico", Journal of Arid Environments, Vol. 49, pp. 183-193, 2001.
- Carlos E. Cintra-Buenrostro, Karl W. Flessa, Guillermoavila-Serrano, "Who Cares About a Vanishing Clam? Trophic Importance of Mulinia coloradoensis Inferred from Predatory Damage", PALAIOS; June 2005; v. 20; no. 3; p. 296-302;