Tuesday, Feb. 02, 2010

Zebra Mussels

Though mussels are considered one of the great delicacies of the seafood world, a particular variety of the crustacean has left a bitter ecological aftertaste. Zebra mussels, an invasive species native to the Caspian Sea are thought to have hitched a ride to the midwestern Great Lakes in the late 1980s by clinging to the hulls of U.S.–bound European vessels. The unwelcome visitors, that have since spread east to New England, are known to feed on the phytoplankton that nourishes the filter feeders which support the diets of larger fish— effectively starving other species unfortunate enough to live alongside them.

The creatures' tendency to cluster and cling to hard surfaces has also proved nightmarish for many power plants and water-consuming facilities that have incurred over $500 million in costs per year fighting off the buildup of mussels that clogs their pipelines.