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If Only We Could Communicate With Zebra Mussels

The Zebra Mussel is an invasive species clogging up American waterways.

Above you see a picture of a Zebra Mussel.

An excellent book about invasive species is called Out Of Eden–An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion by Alan Burdick.

Here is an overview of the Zebra Mussel issue and below is a portion of that overview– 

A small freshwater mollusk called the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), has been steadily invading America’s rivers and lakes. Zebra mussels originated in the Balkans, Poland, and the former Soviet Union. They first appeared in North America in 1988 in Lake St. Clair, a small water body connecting Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Biologists believe the zebra mussels were picked up in a freshwater European port in the ballast water of a ship and were later discharged into the Canadian side of Lake St. Clair.

Zebra mussels get their name from the striped pattern of their shells, though not all shells bear this pattern. They’re usually about fingernail size but can grow to a maximum length of nearly 2 inches. Zebra mussels live 4 to 5 years and inhabit fresh water at depths of 6 to 24 feet. A female zebra mussel begins to reproduce at 2 years of age, and produces between 30,000 and 1 million eggs per year. About two percent of zebra mussels reach adulthood.

Young zebra mussels are small and free swimming, and can be easily spread by water currents. Older zebra mussels attach themselves to hard surfaces by an external organ called a byssus, which consists of many threads. The mussels may attach to boats, pilings, water-intake pipes, and other hard surfaces, as well as to crayfish, turtles, other zebra mussels, and native mollusks. While zebra mussels can attach themselves securely, they may also move, and can reattach themselves easily if dislodged by storms.

Zebra mussels upset ecosystems, threaten native wildlife, damage structures, and cause other serious problems. Millions of dollars are spent each year in attempting to control these small but numerous mollusks.

Below is a photo of many Zebra Mussels in Lake Michigan.

Here is information about Zebra Mussels in the Great Lakes region.

Here is Sea Grant’s National Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearinghouse.

In the early 1990’s, I took a tour of the main plant of the Cincinnati Waterworks.

The man giving the tour, an official with the water works, talked about the threat of Zebra Mussels plugging up the water intake pipes.

I said to him ” If only we could communicate with them.”

I thought it was a funny enough line.

The waterworks man did not appear to think it was funny. 

Here is the link to the Cincinnati Waterworks. You can click under features on the right of homepage for a history of the waterworks.

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Books, Cincinnati | , , , , , | 6 Comments