New Texas mussel discovery may impact ecosystems

The new mussel discovery may have an effect on lake ecosystems in Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) reports a new species of mold that was first detected in Texas.

According to a TPWD press release, quagga mussels were discovered by National Park Service (NPS) personnel at the Amistad International Reservoir in the Rio Grande Basin along the Texas-Mexico border near Del Rio.

In addition to being the first detection of quagga mussels in Texas waters, this is also the first discovery of invasive mussel species in the Rio Grande basin. A close relative of the quagga mussel is the zebra mussel which was first introduced to Lake Texoma in 2009 and has already invaded 33 Texas lakes in six river basins.

“This detection of invasive quagga mussels is a very unfortunate first for Texas,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD’s senior aquatic invasive species scientist. “Quagga mussels can inhabit greater depths and are also able to settle on soft substrates like mud or sand in addition to hard surfaces like rock or infrastructure – unlike zebra mussels – meaning that they can colonize a larger part of the lake.”

NPS personnel monitor the Amistad Reservoir for early detection of invasive mussels using plankton (microscopic organisms) sampling to detect their larvae and conduct colony and shoreline sampling to look for juveniles and adults. In June 2021, a single quagga mussel larva was detected and confirmed by DNA testing at Diablo East. In May, August and September, single quagga mussel larvae were detected at a second site, Rough Canyon.

“Quagga mussels are very prolific and can form larger populations which can have greater effects on the lake ecosystem as a whole, especially in deep lakes,” McGarrity added. “Even lakes that already have zebra mussels are at risk of having quagga mussels introduced and monitoring these lakes for signs of quagga mussels will be necessary.

NPS staff have been actively monitoring Amistad Reservoir for zebra and quagga mussels since 2014. Early detection monitoring can help prevent spread to other water bodies and provide early warning to mitigate impacts to infrastructure of facilities using raw surface water. Currently, NPS employees conduct monthly inspections from docks and structures at several reservoir sites.

Since July 2021, NPS staff have also conducted several shoreline surveys using mussel detector dogs. To date, the NPS has not detected any juvenile or adult mussels that could indicate the establishment of a population. NPS staff will continue to monitor quagga mussel larvae as well as juvenile and adult mussels. Any future population establishments will be explored as potential opportunities for containment should a full infestation develop.

TPWD rated the reservoir as a “positive” for quagga mussels. The positive status indicates that mussel larvae have been detected on several occasions, but no juveniles or adults have been found and there is no evidence yet of a fully established population. The detection of quagga mussel larvae underscores the critical need for lake users to follow TPWD prevention guidelines when visiting Amistad Reservoir.

In addition to reducing the risk of further introductions of quagga mussels that could contribute to establishment, it is necessary to prevent the introduction of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species. The NPS and TPWD encourage all visitors to follow “Clean, Drain and Dry” actions for watercraft and equipment before entering and after leaving the lake.

Because quagga mussels are present in other parts of the United States in the Great Lakes region and some western states, there was already a risk that boats could transport them to Texas lakes. However, their introduction into a reservoir in Texas greatly increases the risk of them being transported by boats and introduced to other bodies of water in the state. The TPWD and its partners will continue to monitor at-risk water bodies for early detection of zebra and quagga mussels. Prevention signage will also be updated at the Amistad Reservoir.

Quagga mussels, similar to zebra mussels, are often transported to new lakes by boat. Therefore, TPWD and its partners will continue their public awareness efforts to encourage boaters to take steps to clean, drain and dry their boats, which will help decontaminate boats with mussels attached to prevent the spread of these invasive species. .

“Unfortunately, the invasive mussels have now spread to 34 lakes in Texas, 28 of which are fully infested, but there are many more lakes that remain uninvaded and are at risk,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Regional Director of Inland Fisheries. “Each boater taking the necessary steps to clean and drain their boat before leaving the lake and allowing compartments and gear to dry completely when they return home can make a big difference in protecting our Texas lakes. .

Invasive mussels are most often transported on or in boats, boaters play a vital role in preventing their spread to new lakes. Invasive mussels attach themselves to boats and anything left in the water, such as anchors, and can survive for days out of the water and often hide in crevices where they cannot be seen easily. Their larvae are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye and can be transported unknowingly in the residual waters of boats.

Boaters are asked to clean, drain and dry their boats and equipment before traveling from one lake to another. Remove plants, mud and debris, drain all water from the boat and gear, then open the compartments once you get home and let everything dry out completely for at least a week if possible.

If you have stored your boat in the water of a lake where invasive mussels live or purchased a boat that has been stored on one of these lakes, it is likely infested with invasive mussels and at extremely high risk of moving these invasive species to a new lake. Before moving your boat that has been stored on a body of water known to have zebra or quagga mussels or if you are purchasing a boat out of state and have questions, call TPWD at (512) 389-4848 for advice on decontamination.

Other equipment stored in infested lakes such as barges, docks, winches and pumps etc. are also potential vectors for the spread of invasive species, so these items should also be fully decontaminated before being transported to another body of water.

Transporting aquatic invasive species can lead to legal issues for boaters or transporters. Transporting prohibited invasive species in Texas is illegal and punishable by a fine of up to $500 per violation. Boaters are also required to drain all water from their boat and onboard containers, including bait buckets, before leaving or approaching any body of fresh water.

Anyone who sees invasive mussels on boats, trailers or equipment being moved should immediately report the sighting to TPWD at (512) 389-4848.

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