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The Impact of Dreissenid Mussels on Growth of the Fragile Papershell (Leptodea fragilis), the Most Abundant Unionid Species in Lake Erie
Canadian Journal of Zoology
  • Robert A. Krebs, Cleveland State University
  • Elizabeth M. Barkett, Cleveland State University
  • Matthew T. Begley, Cleveland State University
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The arrival of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha (Pallas, 1771)) and subsequently quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis Andrusov, 1897) (Dreissenidae) in the Great Lakes in the 1980s induced many changes, most notably the devastation of native freshwater mussel species. Recently, empty shells of the fragile papershell (Leptodea fragilis (Rafinesque, 1820)) have become common, particularly in the western basin of Lake Erie, suggesting that this fast-growing species may be increasing in numbers in the lake. To examine continued competition with dreissenids, shell age and length of L. fragilis were used to contrast lifespan and growth rate, estimated as the slope of age on shell length, for shells from two beach localities where byssal threads were present on most shells and two sites where dreissenids were rare or absent. Few recent shells from Lake Erie beaches exceeded 5 years of age, and byssal thread counts were more numerous on older shells. Growth and lifespan were estimated to be significantly lower where dreissenid mussels remained numerous than when measured either from historic collections along Lake Erie or from protected populations. Therefore, even for this early-reproducing species, competition from dreissenids may continue to interfere with growth and shorten lifespan, which are effects few other unionid species can likely tolerate sufficiently to sustain population growth

This research was supported by the Lake Erie Protection Fund (SG 390-10) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (#30181AG15). E.M.B. was supported by the Cleveland State University Engaged Learning Award Program.

Citation Information
Krebs RA, Barkett EM, Begley MT. 2015. The impact of dreissenid mussels on growth of the fragile papershell (leptodea fragilis), the most abundant unionid species in lake erie. Can J Zool 93(2):143-8.