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Natural History Of Zebra Mussels

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Natural History of Zebra Mussels
Invasive species aren’t anything new in Minnesota; however, “over the past 500 years, more than 4,500 species have established populations in the United States” (Benson, 2015). Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are one of those invasive species. Named because of their zebra-like stripes, these bi-valve mussels live between 4-5 years and grow to about 50 millimeters. Zebra mussels are native to western Russia near the Black and Caspian Seas. Construction of canals aided their spread throughout Europe between the 1700s and the 1800s (Jensen, 2009). By the 1830s, zebra mussels had spread throughout Europe and Britain. Some researchers caution drawing too many comparisons between the european species and the
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Zebra mussel mats can clog water intakes for power plants and river/lake-based water treatment facilities. Because zebra mussels mat together, they can attach in the masses to boat motors and boat hulls damaging equipment. Swimmers that are climbing up submerged ladders or dock equipment can hurt their feet on shells. Up to 1 liter of water is filter fed through a zebra mussel daily (Benson, 2015). They primarily consume algae and other small particles (like bacteria, protozoans and silt) that other fish and animals would consume harming their food supplies. In Lake Erie, the abundance of zooplankton was reduced by 55-71% after the zebra mussel invasion (MacIsaac et al. 1995). In addition, removing these food particles from the water clarifies the water and allows other vegetation to grow. With more light penetration (due to clearer waters), temperature patterns are negatively impacted lowering the amounts of dissolved…show more content…
If there is some water supplies, closed zebra mussels can survive for longer. Veligers cannot survive drying; however, if there is a small water amount (like a puddle or pond), they can survive making some treatment methods like lowering the reservoir levels ineffective. Zebra mussels can survive as boats are transferred from lake to lake and even in bait buckets that fishermen and fisherwomen use. Researchers indicate that overland dispersal could have spread zebra mussels from one small inland lake to another which would explain why so many inner lakes are contaminated with zebra mussels. Ballast water from a Russian commercial cargo vessel was the main vector for spreading the zebra mussels into U.S. waterways and regulations have been put into place regarding discharging ballast in waterways. Education has spread the preventative methods for stopping the spread of zebra mussels and the legal implications of not following rules are steep.

Minnesota SeaGrant (2009) offers these recommendations about protecting local waters from spreading zebra mussels:
Aquatic plants and animals should be removed from boats, trailers and other equipment. Spray down boats and boat trailers before leaving the water access point.
Livewells and bilge water should be emptied
Bait buckets should be dumped onto land (not into the water) and shouldn’t be cross-contaminated
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