Zebra mussels are small, fingernail-sized animals that attach to solid surfaces in water. Zebra mussels are native to Eastern Europe and Western Russia and were brought over to the Great Lakes in the ballast water of ships. Populations of zebra mussels were first discovered in the Great Lakes in 1988.
Impacts: Zebra mussels can be a costly problem for cities and power plants when they clog water intakes. Zebra mussels also cause problems for lakeshore residents and recreationists; for example, they can:
• attach to boat motors and boat hulls, reducing performance and efficiency,
• attach to rocks, swim rafts and ladders where swimmers can cut their feet on the mussel shells, and
• clog irrigation intakes and other pipes.
Zebra mussels also can impact the environment of lakes and rivers where they live. They eat tiny food particles that they filter out of the water, which can reduce available food for larval fish and other animals, and cause aquatic vegetation to grow as a result of increased water clarity.
Status: Zebra mussels have spread throughout the Great Lakes, parts of the Mississippi River, and other rivers and inland lakes. They are established in Minnesota and were first found in the Duluth/Superior Harbor in 1989. See the infested waters list for more information on water bodies in Minnesota where zebra mussels have been found or water bodies that are closely connected to zebra-mussel-infested waters.
Source: Minnesota DNR