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Spatial variation in biofouling of a unionid mussel (Lampsilis siliquoidea) across the western basin of Lake Erie

July 12, 2016

Invasion of North American waters by nonnative Dreissena polymorpha and D. rostriformis bugensishas resulted in declines of the Unionidae family of native North American mussels. Dreissenid mussels biofoul unionid mussels in large numbers and interfere with unionid movement, their acquisition of food, and the native mussels' ability to open and close their shells. Initial expectations for the Great Lakes included extirpation of unionids where they co-occurred with dreissenids, but recently adult and juvenile unionids have been found alive in several apparent refugia. These unionid populations may persist due to reduced dreissenid biofouling in these areas, and/or due to processes that remove biofoulers. For example locations inaccessible to dreissenid veligers may reduce biofouling and habitats with soft substrates may allow unionids to burrow and thus remove dreissenids. We deployed caged unionid mussels (Lampsilis siliquoidea) at 36 sites across the western basin of Lake Erie to assess spatial variation in biofouling and to identify other areas that might promote the persistence or recovery of native unionid mussels. Biofouling ranged from 0.03 – 26.33 g per mussel, reached a maximum in the immediate vicinity of the mouth of the Maumee River, and appeared to primarily consist of dreissenid mussels. A known mussel refugium in the vicinity of a power plant near the mouth of the Maumee actually exhibited very high biofouling rates, suggesting that low dreissenid colonization did not adequately explain unionid survival in this refugium. In contrast, the southern nearshore area of Lake Erie, near another refugium, had very low biofouling. A large stretch of the western basin appeared to have low biofouling rates and muddy substrates, raising the possibility that these open water areas could support remnant and returning populations of unionid mussels. Previous observations of unionid refugia and the occurrence of low biofouling rates in large areas of the western basin of Lake Erie raise the possibility that unionid and dreissenid coexistence may be possible here and elsewhere.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Spatial variation in biofouling of a unionid mussel (<i>Lampsilis siliquoidea</i>) across the western basin of Lake Erie
DOI 10.1674/0003-0031-176.1.119
Authors James H. Larson, Mary Anne Evans, William B. Richardson, Jeff Schaeffer, John C. Nelson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The American Midland Naturalist
Series Number
Index ID 70175024
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center