Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are an invasive species to the Great Lakes region. They reside in many bodies of water, including lakes and rivers. They are identifiable by their striped pattern, high population density, and foul odor.
Zebra mussels have hard shells and soft, fatty tissue on the inside. They serve as excellent filter feeders, meaning that they remove particulates and microscopic algae from the surrounding waters. Zebra muscles are particularly good filter feeders as some can filter up to a quart a day. This poses a threat environmentally because it increases photosynthetic rates and results in rapid sedimentation and eutrophication. This ages the lake, changes its chemical levels, and reduces biodiversity.
Zebra mussels also have appendages that help them to cling to any surface. Hundreds of zebra mussels can be found clinging to sticks, rocks, docks, pipes, or other organisms. This gives the potential for zebra mussels to kill off other organisms, clog up piping, create sharp surfaces, and reproduce quickly.
Economically, zebra mussel management has already cost millions of dollars. Zebra mussels can accumulate in pipes and machines, blocking flow and damaging equipment. Because they can directly and indirectly reduce the biodiversity around them, zebra mussels can also impact commercial fisheries and related industries.