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Dreissena polymorpha

Common Name: Zebra Mussel
Dreissena polymorpha
Dreissena polymorpha

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Bivalvia
Order: Myida
Family: Dreissenidae
Genus: Dreissena
Species: Dreissena polymorpha

Conservation Status

Identifying Features

Zebra mussels are typically 2 inches in length with triangular-shaped shells. The shells are striped with lighter bands of white-gray that alternate with darker bands of tan brown. They are often found attached to rocks or bottom of boats in clusters.

Habitat & Range

Zebra mussels live in the freshwaters of rivers and lakes throughout the United States. Originating from Europe, they are an invasive species and have rapidly expanded across the Great Lakes region to infest other river and lake systems as far as the west coast of the United States.


Zebra mussels serve as filter feeders and are capable of filtering large quantities of water within short periods of time. As they open their shells, they can filter in small particles of organic material from the water. Over time, the species can accumulate and disrupt the food web causing harm to other species living in the same area.

Life Cycle

Zebra mussels are extremely reproductive and can reproduce at a rate of around tens of thousands to a million new mussels every year. The female will begin reproducing after her first year and can release more than one million eggs into the water during the spring season.

Featured image by James Dake.


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