One of the species that has become invasive in freshwater streams and saltwater environments is the zebra mussel. The common name comes from the color of the shell, which resembles that of a certificate. It has a light brown hue crossed by dark zig-zag stripes. This mussel has become one of the invasive species in different ecosystems and causes some damage as we will see below.
What you can do to stop the spread of the invasive zebra mussel: Inspect boat, trailer, and other recreational equipment that have been in contact with water. Remove all mud, plants, or animals. Drain all bilge water, live wells, bait buckets, and all other water from your boat, engine, and equipment.
In this article, we will tell you all the characteristics of the invasive zebra mussel species.
History as an invasive species
It is a smaller clam than other clam species. They are able to reach only 3 cm like adult individuals. One of the most striking characteristics of this species is that individuals tend to develop in colonies. These colonies are placed in the bed to cover any gaps, and shells later grow on top of others. This means that it can have a very high population density of up to thousands of individuals per square metre.
This is one of the reasons why it has become one of the most well-known invasive species. And one of the characteristics that is retained in all invasive species is their ease of reproduction. You can easily recognize the zebra mussel by the stripes present on its shell, from which it gets its common name. This animal appears on the list of the world’s 100 most harmful invasive alien species.
The natural range of this species is the Black, Caspian and Aral Seas. During the 1985th century, it began to expand across the watercourses of the European continent to the Great Lakes of the United States, later occupying the Mississippi River and the Caribbean coast. The reason this species is invasive is because of its high reproductive capacity. And it so happens that just one adult specimen can release between a million and a million and a half larvae into the environment over a year.
The species is slightly more problematic for several reasons. The first is the excessive growth of colonies, which causes damage to infrastructure and changes the composition of phytoplankton. The great development and reproductive capacity together with the density of populations make it an invasive species. Added to this is the great resistance to different environmental conditions. With all these qualities, they were able to occupy large areas of watercourses and lakes in a short time.
Zebra mussel as a problem species
By forming compact cones from individuals, these colonies can damage ecosystem infrastructure and alter phytoplankton composition. As we know, phytoplankton are essential to the aquatic food chain. All of these individuals are capable of blocking human pipes or water reservoirs, requiring the physical disposal of the specimens. These organisms are resistant to chemicals like chlorine. Therefore, they must be eliminated with systems that would have a negative impact on the environment.
To eliminate this kind of invasive species, we don’t want to pollute the environment, we just need to eliminate the specific species. They have amazing water filtering capacity. They can filter up to 8.5 liters of water per person per day. This becomes quite a challenge when it comes to eliminating these populations. It must be added that to the population density they can have per square meter they are capable of continuously filtering a large volume of water.
This filter capacity has several consequences. On the one hand, the amount of phytoplankton present in the watercourse is reduced. This negatively affects the rest of the species that feed on phytoplankton. On the other hand, we have clarified that by eliminating the excess of suspended particles we can obtain crystal clear water. It can be said that this is a positive consequence. But the negative is much worse.
They already have problems with river pollution in some areas of northern Europe and consider the zebra mussel beneficial thanks to its filtering capacity. However, it is useless to have very good quality water if this species is harmful to other aquatic species. It turns out to be controversy to be able to classify this species as beneficial. It can be beneficial to humans up to a point, but not to other species.
The situation in Spain of the zebra mussel
The adult specimens can form colonies that grow on top of each other. This causes them to reach very dense populations and filter large volumes of water in a short period of time. The resistance of the species is very high and its high reproduction rate causes direct economic damage in Spain. The economic losses caused by this species in the US over a 10-year period exceed 1,600 million euros.
In Spain the Ministry of the Environment spent between 2003 and 2006 million 300 on combating the species. The species was discovered in the Ebro Basin in 2001. The density of individuals was very low, but in the following years it was able to expand to the Júcar and Segura basins. These populations could be traced back to the course of the Ebro and reached the base of an Undugarra in Vizcaya in 2011. Other points where these specimens have been recorded are the Sobrón dam in Burgos and the Puentelarrá hydroelectric jump. in Alava.
At the moment they have expanded us to other places, although it seems only a matter of time. The zebra mussel is not intentionally introduced by humans into the rivers it invades. This means that for humans it has no economic benefit.
There are some summer control strategies that provide a clear solution to the problem. The use of filters prevents the passage of the larvae to water transport lines such as hydroelectric power plants.
I hope this information will help you learn more about the zebra mussel and its status as an invasive species.
What happens to a lake with zebra mussels?
One of the most damaging impacts of zebra mussels is that they filter out algae needed for food by native species. Beyond that ecosystem impact, that are several other ways zebra mussels negatively affect the environment they invade: Cause cuts and scrapes for pets and people enjoying the waters.
What do invasive zebra mussels taste like?
Is it okay to eat zebra mussels?
Are zebra mussels edible? Most clams and mussels are edible, but that does not mean they taste good! Many species and fish and ducks eat zebra mussels, so they are not harmful in that sense.
What are positive effects of zebra mussels?
The dreaded zebra mussel — an invasive species — is killing off native species in lakes and rivers all over the country. But in Lake Ontario, it turns out the zebra mussel has had a positive impact for salmon fishermen. It’s producing fatter, faster-growing salmon.
Can zebra mussels make people sick?
Once a lake is infested with zebra mussels, an unusual bloom of blue-green algae scum called microcystis often follows. Zebra mussels invade lakes most used by people, and microcystis can produce toxins potentially harmful to wildlife and people.
What do zebra mussels eat?
Zebra mussels are filter feeders, which means they strain small particles (plant plankton) from the water for food. Thousands of zebra mussels may consume so much plankton that there is not enough for the tiny microscopic animals (zooplankton) that young fish feed on to survive.
Do Zebra mussels have a natural predator?
Zebra mussels do not have many natural predators in North America. But, it has been documented that several species of fish and diving ducks have been known to eat them.
How do zebra mussels impact the environment?
Zebra mussels negatively impact ecosystems in many ways. They filter out algae that native species need for food and they attach to – and incapacitate – native mussels. Power plants must also spend millions of dollars removing zebra mussels from clogged water intakes.
Are zebra mussels edible?
Yes, but they are not recommended to be eaten. These mussels accumulate toxins as they filter water. These toxins can be harmful to humans, dogs, and birds.
Are zebra mussels bad for boats?
Zebra mussels can render beaches unusable, clog water filtration pipes, and destroy boat engines such as in the example pictured above. Although small, zebra mussels cause big trouble. These mussels can quickly encrust things, such as this crayfish above.