The Dreissena polymorpha or more commonly known as the zebra mussel is small freshwater mussel that is native to Russia. The mussels get their name form the stripes commonly found on their shells. They are usually about the size of a fingernail but can grow up to 2 inches. The life span of the zebra mussel is 4 to 5 years and the females begin to reproduce every 6 to 7 weeks. Females produce over 1 million eggs in a year and about 35,000 eggs every reproductive cycle.
Zebra mussels were originally found in rivers and lakes that connected to the Black and Caspian sea. They were located in eastern Europe and Western Asia. In the 1800s shipping and canal construction allowed them to west into most European rivers and lakes. They were accidentally brought North America in the early 20th century and are now located throughout North America. They live in slow-moving freshwater and attach themselves to any hard surface underwater. Most of the time the mussels live in water that is 2 to 12 meters deep and grow best in water that is not acidic.
The mussels grow on all kinds of mad-made structures underwater. They grow on intake pipes for water and power plants, and they can clog the pipes and cause problems. The government and businesses spend lots of money to keep the mussels away and keep their pipes clean. Zebra mussels also grow on the hulls of ships which slows the ships down and can cause intake problems. They eat many of the food native species eat much faster and this causes resource problems for the native species.
Steps Being Taken
Zebra mussels spread quickly and there are some procedures that can be done to stop the growth. The Missouri government urges boaters to rinse their motor after using the boat to stop the spread. Also the government wants citizens to let their boat dry for 5 days after using it to kill all of the Zebra mussels that could be on it. There are education programs being used to inform the public about the mussel and prevent it form spreading. The mussel have no real predator in North America, so it is thriving and spreading quickly.