The first zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) in the Great Lakes were identified in 1988. Since this initial discovery, the mollusc has spread to all corners of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Ecosystem, and pushing south to the Mississippi Delta and west to places like California and Nevada. It has wreaked havoc on municipal and industrial water infrastructure, piled up on beaches, and devastated natural wildlife populations.
Zebra mussels are particularly insidious in that they undermine the very foundation of the Great Lakes’ food web. Being filer feeders, zebra mussels rob fish and other organisms of the food they need. They offer nothing in return; they provide no value as a prey organism and throw the natural ecosystem out of balance. Zebra mussels are implicated in the alarming disappearance of Diporeia, a key native zooplankter that is vital to the diet of many native fish species.
Zebra mussels, when they interact with round gobies, another exotic pest, help produce the conditions that move botulism up the food web, killing Great Lakes fish and birds.
This video shows what sections of the beach have become – a pile of razor sharp zebra mussel shells.
Video and images © 2012