Zebra Mussels are freshwater mussels that were native to the lakes of Russia and Ukraine. They were accidentally introduced to water bodies throughout the world and became invasive species in many lakes and rivers worldwide.
What are Zebra Mussels
The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) is a bivalve mollusk that inhabits freshwater. The name “Zebra Mussel” derives from the color of its shell which is light brown with dark brown zig-zag stripes.
Zebra Mussels are smaller than other mussel species. A striking feature of Zebra Mussels is that they grow in colonies containing thousands of mussels. They attach themselves to the river/ lake substrate and can form layers measuring 10 – 15 cm in thickness.
How Zebra Mussels Grow
Zebra Mussels are gregarious species that thrive at slow waters, because they cannot attach themselves to the substrate when the water is flowing fast. They compete for space with other organisms living in the water body.
Female Zebra Mussels produce over 1 million eggs each year.
The lifespan of a Zebra Mussel is four to five years.
Native to the Asian Caspian Sea, they adapted well to the North American freshwater bodies.
They can even manage to survive outside of water for up to 7 days.
Zebra Mussels – Invasive Species
Zebra Mussels are filter feeders, which means that in order to obtain food, they filter the water around them. This separation of particles present in water from the water. The water hence becomes clearer allowing more sunlight penetration. This leads to the growth of organisms like macrophytes that cause water quality problems.
Zebra Mussels have also been linked to algal bloom of the “bad” blue-green algae and a fall in the population of the “good” green algae. Blue-green algae make the water toxic for consumption by animals.
Another disrupter is their tendency to attach to anything hard. They attach themselves to water pipes and obstruct the path of drinking water.
How were Zebra Mussels introduced in North America?
Zebra Mussels were first introduced in North America in St. Clair Lake in Canada in 1988.
How are Zebra Mussels controlled?
Several chemical and biological ways can be used to control the population of Zebra Mussels. Chemical methods including oxidizing using chemicals like chlorine, bromine and, ozone. Canadian authorities used fertilizers to kill the invasive Zebra Mussels in 2014.
Fish like Crayfish and Smallmouth bass fish are natural predators of Zebra Mussels that can help kill the Zebra Mussels.