Zebra Mussel

Photo by Marc Murrell
used by permission

Common Name: Zebra Mussel

Scientific Name: Dreissena polymorpha

Length: up to 1 1/2 inches




Blue = current range
Hollow circles = former range


Status in Kansas:
Invasive Exotic

North American Status: (From NatureServe)
Widespread in Europe; originally native to the Black and Caspian seas; accidently introduced into into the Great Lakes in North America in the mid 1980s. It has since spread to the Mississippi, Ohio, and Susquehanna river systems. It is thought that it will eventually colonize most of the lower 48 United States and southern Canada.

Comments: Zebra mussels are so named because of their alternating cream and black stripes on small triangular-shaped shells. They were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s from Eurasia when ballast water was dumped from sea freighters. They have spread up and down the major navigational waters from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico via barge traffic and have been largely transported to Midwestern reservoirs and smaller river systems via fishing and boating activities. Unlike our native mussels, no fish host is needed to complete the life cycle. A female will produce free-living veligers at the rate of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands annually. This equates to rapid population expansion once established. They have been reported to produce densities of 30,000 to 40,000 per square meter. The ability of this species to attach (bio-encrust) has made it a potential menace to any utility that pumps water through pipes. It has the ability to clog 3-foot diameter pipes that transport water. Efforts continue to keep them out of Kansas waters, yet they have successfully invaded El Dorado, Marion, Cheney, Perry, Wilson and Milford reservoirs, Winfield City Lake, Council Grove City Lake, Lake Afton and the rivers below them. Kansas has a great potential to experience huge economic and ecological losses as a result of zebra mussel infestations.

Fish Hosts: none used or required