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Thursday, January 15, 2009

330 Trillion Quagga Mussels Can't be Right

quagga mussel
quagga mussel (photo Wikimedia public domain from USGS)
based on a news article in the Muskegon Chronicle, "Foreign mollusks could sink fishing in Big Lake," by Jeff Alexander, Jan 12, 2009

At the NOAA Lake Michigan Field Station in Muskegon, senior ecologist Gary Fahnenstiel reports that an estimated 330 trillion quagga mussels are sucking the life out of the aquatic system.

Quagga mussels are larger and actually more disruptive than the zebra mussels, also an invader of the great lakes. Quaggas are filter feeders and their presence has been linked to everything from algae blooms to the botulism outbreaks that have killed 70,000 birds, and countless fish in the past decade.

Both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are falling prey to the mussels, who hitchhiked into the Great Lakes in the 1980's on ocean freighters. The quaggas eat vast quantities of plankton and other small organisms at the base of the food chain. A penny-sized mussel can filter up to a liter of water a day.

Instead of the normal flow of food energy, now many critical nutrients are being tied up in quagga shells or just sunk in the lake bottom. A looming biological crises is being suggested. Small shrimp like creatures critical to feeding native fish have decreased by 96% since 1995. The total weight of all the small fish in the lake on which whitefish, salmon, and trout feed, has dropped 94% since 1989, leading to smaller sizes of the fish near the top of the food chain.

There are, by volume and weight, four times more quagga in Lake Michigan than all of the prey fish species together. NOAA's sampling showed the quagga mussel population has leveled off in waters less than 100 feet deep but continues to multiply in deeper waters. At a monitoring site offshore of Muskegon, in water 300 feet deep, quagga mussel densities reached 3,500 mollusks per square meter last year.

Not everyone agrees that the quagga are disastrous for the lake ecosystem. Yet the circumstantial evidence for changes seems to continue to mount.

See related articles Biological Pesticide Found for Zebra Mussels
A Sad Farewell for Loon C-3
Type E Botulism Confirmed in Waterfowl Deaths
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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3 comments:

RE Ausetkmt said...

a good thing that may actually develop an industry, would be mussel fishing. now if we could get some folks to start going after them and bring them up, cooking them up and serving them cheap in MI. I gurantee they'd be in real short supply in little to no time at all.

MI could even export them frozen to the japanese; since we have a sistercity agreement.

nice to meet you, and I'll be back.
bought an ad to support you as a fellow michigan blogger.

cheers

~RE

Sharkbytes said...

Pretty funny! I wonder if they are edible. They are very small... about the size of a penny.

Anonymous said...

It is not a good idea to eat them. They are filter feeders which means they will filter everything out of the water. A significant portion of them are contaminated with botulism. Botulism does not affect them because they have no nervous system, but it would not be good for humans.

Not to mention that a mature female quagga mussel can produce 1 million eggs per year. Even if everyone switched to a diet that involved these mussels we would not have a huge effect on their population.

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