Everything You Need To Know About Zebra Mussels

According to MIT Sea Grant Resources, non-native, Eurasian zebra mussels are estimated to cost the United States $5 billion in control and reparation costs. Not only have these small mollusks impacted the U.S. economy, they are severely impacting the native ecosystems of U.S. lakes and major river systems. They multiply quickly as an adult female will, on average, produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs each season. These voracious filter-feeders, with a life span of three to five years, are disrupting the natural food chain by consuming large amounts of microscopic plants and animals. The Dreissena polymorpha, commonly called zebra mussel, is native to Eurasia--the former Soviet Union, Poland, the Balkans and the Caspian Sea region of Northern Iran.

Zebra mussel larvae were introduced to North America by ballast water from transocean ships traveling from Europe in the mid 1980s. Dispersal within the inland waterways is attributed to boat and barge traffic. The mussels quickly spread throughout the Great Lakes and major river systems by attaching themselves to the bottom of these vessels. According to the U.S. Parks and Wildlife, the first established U.S. population of zebra mussels reported was in Lake St. Clair in the Great Lakes region in 1988. These exotic pests were well established in all the Great Lakes by 1990. Currently many inland waters are infested, including those of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and the Tennessee, Hudson, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Arkansas rivers, with many other areas south and west now being impacted.

Federal, state and local agencies are tracking the movement of the Dreissena polymorpha and exploring ways to slow its spread. By working collaboratively and asking for the public's help in assuring that recreational watercraft are cleaned before each launch, it is hoped that significant progress can be made toward control of the zebra mussel and other exotic species that are invading U.S. waters.

  • Dreissena Polymorpha: Zebra mussels, description, origins, impacts and distribution.
  • Zebra Mussel Threat: A look at the zebra mussel from the State of Virginia.
  • Exotic Zebra Mussel: All about the threat of zebra mussels from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
  • Zebra Mussel Info: Economic and ecological impact of the invasive zebra mussel from the Great Lakes Science Center.
  • On the Gulf Coast: Zebra mussels, an introduction, plus problems and control from Sea Grant Louisiana.
  • About Zebra Mussel: Information about the invasion of the zebra mussel, along with a description of the species.
  • The Zebra Mussel Page: Site devoted to the species with research summary, zebra mussel glossary and slide show.
  • Zebra Mussel Info System: Extensive zebra mussel information site developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Twenty Years of the Zebra Mussel: In-depth information about the zebra mussel's invasion in the Great Lakes Region.
  • Quagga & Zebra Mussels: Overview of the zebra mussel problem from the Center for Invasive Species Research at the University of California at Riverside.
  • Zebra Mussel: Information and images of zebra mussels
  • Vermont & the Zebra Mussel: Site maintained by the Water Quality Division of the State of Vermont.
  • Alien Profile: What does a zebra mussel look like? How can you identify this alien species? How can they be stopped? Here are answers to these questions and more.
  • Missouri's Most Unwanted: Extensive information about the zebra mussel, including lots of invasion prevention tips, with video.
  • Ten Things: The National Park Service list of ten things it's important to know about zebra mussels.
  • Zebra Mussel Info: All about zebra mussels with images and video from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
  • Economic Impact in Florida: Information about Florida, but overview of impact across the U.S.
  • History & More: About the invasive zebra mussel and infestation in U.S. reclamation reservoirs.
  • Aquatic Nuisance Species: Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife information on the zebra mussel.
  • Invasive Species Program: Information from the State of California, includes videos and a map of sightings in the state.

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