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Zebra Mussels/Mollusk are They a Threat to "Our Ecosystem"?

Updated on June 14, 2020

What are mollusk?

Tiny Mollusk, (Dreissena polymorpha), better known as zebra mussels have invaded the streams, rivers and fresh water lakes of the United States of America and they have established a foot hold in some of our lakes here in Texas.

Zebra mussels encrust a rusty junk car

Zebra mussels encrust an old junk car
Zebra mussels encrust an old junk car | Source

The acidic excrement of the freshwater mollusk, zebra mussel, may eat away at the protective coating on the pipelines, but it is a question of when not if, the pipelines in the infested waters will rupture. (Huff Post)

Even underwater pipelines are is danger from these mussels

A 62 year old “OIL” pipeline called Line 5, is owned by the Canadian energy company Enbridge has become encrusted with these zebra mussels. (See: Samantha Lachman) Posted: 05/22/2015 7:35 am EDT Updated: 06/01/2015 2:59 am EDT

The acidic excrement of the freshwater mollusk, zebra mussel, may eat away at the protective coating on the pipelines, but it is a question of when not if, this pipeline will rupture. (Huff Post)

A newer Enbridge pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling 1 million gallons of heavy crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup is still ongoing. Could the rupture of his pipeline have been caused by the excrement of the zebra mussel?

Invertebrate animals

The mollusks are invertebrate animals (without a vertebral column in their anatomy) and the zebra mussels are one of the approximate 85,000 extant species.

The larvae (called veligers,) of the zebra mussel are microscopic in size allowing easy transport from water-way to water-way. And can be carried by currents from a network of streams and lakes to other streams and lakes. Or by unknowing boaters.

Adult zebra mussels grow from fingernail size up to two inches, and live in freshwater up to 24 feet deep. The life span of the zebra mussel is 4 to 5 years.

The adult female zebra mussel can lay up to 1 million eggs a year from the age of two. But, only two percent of the vilgers will reach adulthood. (Two percent of 1 million is still a scary number,) and they attach themselves to any hard surface by threads from an external organ called a byssus, which is another way they can be transported from one lake to another. Zebra mussels attach themselves to other zebra mussels, to crayfish, turtles as well as pilings, boats, and water intake pipes.

Where did they originate from?

The zebra mussels are believed to have originated originally from the former Soviet Union, Poland and the Balkans, and then spread westward to the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

When and where were they discovered in the United States?

Zebra mussels were first discovered in Lake St. Clair on the Canadian side, in-between, Lake Erie and Lake Huron in 1988. It is believed the zebra mussels vilgers to have been discharged from the ballast water of a ship from a European freshwater port where the zebra mussel vilgers were picked up.

How is that a big deal?

It is a big deal because; beaches could be forced to close because of the stench of dead zebra mussels, and the danger of being cut by the sharp mussels’ shells.

If millions of zebra mussels filter a quart of water per day each, then a whole lake could be filtered in one day. And the food and algae for the zebra mussels would cause a decrease in the food for other native larval fish and other species, in that the zebra mussels would cause a decrease in the population of birds, native fish and native mullusks.

It is a big deal because; zebra mussels colonize and if they colonize water intake pipes, and could restrict the flow of fresh water to power plants, that rely on the water flow to operate efficiently, they would also damage the facilities by entering with the water flow and attaching themselves to internal parts.

Zebra mussels can cause boat engines to overheat by getting into the cooling system.

Q. my concern is if one swims in infected lakes and vilgers are microscopic, could you ingest them?

Q. Are they fit for humam consumption?

Do Zebra Mussels serve a purpose?

Some ducks, other birds and some fish like freshwater drum, yellow perch, sunfish and catfish feed on young and adult zebra mussels, but not enough to make much of a dent at the rate they multiply.

Do Zebra Mussels have natural enemy's?

8/8/2014 For the answer to this question I turned to Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia "crayfish could have a significant impact on the densities of 1 to 5 mm long zebra mussels. An adult crayfish consumes an average of nearly 105 zebra mussels every day, or about 6000 mussels in a season."

What else is being done to protect our ecosystem from Zebra Mussels?

Other controls according to Wikipedia:

"On June 4, 2014, Canadian conservation authorities announced that a test using liquid fertilizer to kill invasive zebra mussels was successful. This test was conducted in a lakefront harbor in the western province of Manitoba."

Lakes in Texas with an established breeding population

Lakes in Texas that have an established breeding population of zebra mussels are Lake Ray Roberts and Lake Texoma.

In August 2012, the zebra mussels were reported as having invaded 29 states and over 600 lakes.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) have put regulations in place to stop the invasion of zebra mussels.

Boaters who launched their boats in infested waters are required by the TPWD to drain live wells, bait buckets, and the bilge. To avoid transporting vilgers to other bodies of water that may not already be infested with Zebra Mussels.

Boaters, who do not follow the TPWD code, would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. The a clause in the Lacey Act makes it a federal offence to transport harmful invasive fish/game, including the zebra mussel across state lines.

In Answer to my dear friend Au fait's question

I wonder if it might be possible to turn these things into food? That might help get them under control.

For an answer to Au fait's question I turned to 'Zebra Mussel Watch conducted by University of Wisconsin sea grant'.

Here is their answer: "Although zebra mussels are edible, we strongly advise you not to eat them. They accumulate contaminants as they feed, and in areas of high contaminant concentrations, zebra mussels can accumulate enough pollutants to raise concerns for human consumption."

The Lacey Act includes the following

The Lacey Act combats trafficking in “illegal” wildlife, fish, and plants.


The Dallas Morning News article from August 2012 "Tiny Mollusk poses outsized threat."

Is There Hope After All?

Right now I am watching 'NAT GEO WILD' scientist are researching the 'carp explosion' with a concern they might get into the Great Lakes and squeeze out the Lake Sturgeons, they were catching these Sturgeons tagging them and letting them go.

Their discovery! These beautiful Sturgeons have been dining on Zebra Mollusk, and the hope is they will defend the waters of the Great Lakes from the carp.

We can only Hope!

The Great Lakes Hope

This Great Lakes Sturgeons are the hope of our future.
This Great Lakes Sturgeons are the hope of our future. | Source

© 2013 Shyron E Shenko


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