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The pattern of nestedness, where species present in depauperate locations are subsets of species present in locations with higher species diversity, is often found in ecological communities. Mussel communities examined in four rivers in the upper Tennessee River basin appeared significantly nested. Mussel species distributions were mostly unrelated to differences in immigration and only weakly related to downstream direction, giving some indication of structuring by differences in extinction. Mussel species distributions were not related to the number of fish species used as hosts for mussel larvae. Mussel species were more likely to overlap on common fish hosts; however, the host-use matrix was not nested – groups of mussel species used different sets of host fish species in a pattern that appeared phylogenetically related. Sites with high fish host abundance may support high mussel diversity by promoting the survival of mussel species that are less able to attract and infect hosts. Thus, nestedness in freshwater mussel communities may be driven by the array of host fish resources, combined with differences in species’ abilities to use fish hosts. An understanding of the nested pattern in this region can aid conservation of this imperiled fauna.