Competitors flex mussels in first round of SmackDown!

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By Alice Rossignol and Rachael Gleason

Editor’s note: Great Lakes Smackdown! is an ongoing Great Lakes Echo series.

Don’t forget to turn in your brackets before Friday, October 15th. More information here.

Round 1, Bracket 1

Here’s how the first two competitors in the Great Lakes SmackDown! flex their mussels:

With 22 years of Great Lakes fighting experience and stretching the tape by up to 5 centimeters in length is Zebra “Big Z” Mussel. This mollusk is known for clogging water pipes, clinging to boat hulls and filtering enough water to disrupt the Great Lakes food chain. Recognizable by its striped shell, this critter is capable of producing 30,000 to 1 million eggs per year.

And in the other corner, hailing all the way from the Ukraine, is Quagga “the Quagmeister” Mussel!  Slightly less experienced than the Big Z, don’t underestimate this bivalve’s prowess. The Quagmeister is highly adaptable and has the Big Z’s appetite for filtering enough water to disrupt an entire ecosystem. Quagga Mussels accumulates large loads of pollutants in their little shelled systems and pass these contaminants up the food chain.

These two contenders from the same genus are similar in size and fighting skills and like to compete in the same arenas. But which is the worst for the Great Lakes ecosystem?

Fighter Profiles:

Zebra "The Big Z" Mussel. Photo: USGS

Zebra “THE BIG Z” Mussel

Legal name: Dreissena polymorpha

Home Turf: Black, Caspian and Azov seas in Eastern Europe and Asia.

U.S. Fighting Debut: 1988 in Lake St. Clair

Agent: Ballast water

Preferred fighting arena: By 1990, all of the Great Lakes.

Weight/Size class: Less than 5 cm.

Fighting Skills:

– A super water filter, this mussel disrupts the food chain by sucking up smaller organisms.

Completely ruthless, they clamp on to other mollusks, crayfish and turtles and starve them.

Navigation buoys have sunk under their extreme weight.

They crowd intake pipes, cutting off water supplies to power plants, factories and water treatment plants.

– Born with a love for hard surfaces, they cling to hulls and increase drag on boats, not to mention their ability to enter engines and destroy them.

Life Expectancy: Four to five years.

Offspring: The Big Z is busy to say the least. They produce 30,000 to 1 million eggs per year.


Quagga "The Quagmeister" Mussel. Photo: USGS.


Legal name: Dreissena rostriformis bugensis

Home Turf: Ukraine, Ponto-Caspian Sea.

U.S. Fighting Debut: September 1989 near Port Colborne, Lake Erie.

Agent: Ballast water

Preferred fighting arena: All five Great Lakes.

Weight/Size class: Reaching sizes up to 4 cm – but they are often larger than zebra mussels.

Fighting Skills:

This fella is highly adaptable.

As ravenous water filters they suck up phytoplankton and water particulates starving out creatures higher up on the food chain that depend on them.

By filtering water they increase water clarity, which can cause an increase of aquatic plants.

This competitor loves to cling to hard surfaces like water pipes, inhibiting the water flow to these structures.

Quaggas gather toxins in their systems. When eaten by predators these toxics are passed up the food chain.

Life Expectancy: Three to five years.

Offspring: Up to one million eggs per year.

Vote for the winner here and make your case in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Competitors flex mussels in first round of SmackDown!

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  3. Quaggas are far more numerous these days so I vote that they’re the new bad boys (and girls) of the seaa.

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  5. The Federal government is not engaged with creating national ballast legislation, and is allowing the states to compete with one another while dealing with an international organization of foreign economic interest.(economic globalization over economic Americanization) To say the IMO is adequate protection is not remembering that 10,000 died in the 1990’s from cholera in South America related to IMO sea captains not following procedures with the costly, time consuming, dangerous, inadequate ocean flush.
    One reason to insist on a time line is because of industries bottom line, as industry will never spend the investment to create technology unless forced.
    Another reason to insist on technology for Great Lakes locked ships, that is rarely talked about with ballast water, is the human bacterial and virus problems
    It seems findings by the government in studies show bird flue, h1n1, and a host of other influenza’s are found in fresh water lakes and glaciers in the Arctic where new shipping routes are opening as the ice melts, and are carried by birds to other waters around the world. Ballast water should not help to facilitate this. According to a report for Congress in Dec 2009 that states that national policy would affect mainly foreign ships bringing foreign imports into our country and would cause them to rise in cost. Gee!! this may make America more cost competitive. It is time for us to face this threat from mainly foreign economic interest (China). Yes this may cause “change” and economic hardship to some, but the long term future prosperity and health of all Americans and our environment should be our primary concern. NY state wasted much money in creating ballast water laws, if the state is already going to grant passes to foreign ships because of lack technology to meet their requirements, and if thay are now willing to wait a idefinete period for technology developement, all we have is, a lot of money wasted so politicians could look as though they tried to do something. The President has ask our governor to step aside in mid term election after creating these regulations, you can only wonder if the next governor of NY will accept whatever weak coast guard plan comes up, and do away with NY ballast water requirements in the presidential election year of 2012 so this administrations recovery on the coat tails of a communist country can continue. Senator Schumer and Nobel prize economist MR. Krugman have both called for tariffs,
    the following report for Congress in DEC 2009 that explains that national ballast water legislation would do the same thing as tariffs, plus protect our environment from the carbon footprint and dirty water trail of foreign ships bringing foreign manufactured imports into our country, stealing jobs from Americans. “Although estimates of the costs of ballast treatment may be imprecise and vary from vessel to
    vessel, there is some general agreement on average costs.14 For example, it may cost an estimated $400,000 per vessel for modification of container/bulk vessels to use onshore ballast water treatment facilities at California ports. More generally, the cost of retrofitting vessels to treat
    ballast water has been estimated at between $200,000 and $310,000 per vessel for mechanical
    treatment and around $300,000 for chemical treatment.15 Most of this expense will be borne by
    foreign shipping companies, as the U.S. flag fleet is a small percentage of the global fleet,16 and
    likely passed along to consumers of products imported on these ships.”

    Currently all we have from this administration is a Military plan, giving incentives to foreign ships bring foreign manufactured goods into our country if they want to install technology to protect our environment. This is while Americans are out of work, forcing the states, without an infrastructure for enforcement into expensive legislative competition with each other while dealing with an international organization of primarily foreign economic interest. (IMO) Sadly after the historic vote by the House in 2008,(passed 395-7), was killed in 2008 while the top three officials in this administration were Senators, this administration has again promoted the grandiose plan of economic globalization over economic Americanization as a way to create jobs, by not instructing the Senate to work out one Senators issues over the House, historic request for American law leaving the states to fend for themselves. In the 1990’s as they began creating new trade treaties promoting economic globalization as the answer for Americas future, environmentalist were not happy with President Clinton and the delegation under the clean water act and the EPA for ballast water. They new then this only circumvented the problem on behalf foreign shipping. Now two decades later we have become a nation were are largest employers employ mainly store clerks selling foreign made products. Senator Boxer’s only alternative after killing national ballast water legislation in 2008 was again to try and place, ballast water control under the Clean Water Act and the EPA . Obviously there can be no enforcement this way, as even during the Gulf disaster, despite repeated warnings to this administration about ballast systems moving substances released from ocean development, they allowed ships to move tar balls into Lake Pontchartrain. This warning was even posted on our Presidents Ocean Initiatives web site. This administration has promoted the idea that limiting US carbon emission, negotiating carbon emission and currency manipulation with a communist country, while facilitating destruction of our waters and atmosphere by foreign ships with a pass, as a way to create spill over jobs for America from foreign communist country. STRONG NATIONAL BALLAST WATER LEGISLATION MANDATING INSTALATION OF TECHNOLOGY WOULD CREATE LONG TERM JOBS, and reduce the economic competition between all our countries ports, to recieve foreign imports. The lack of National Ballast Water Legislation, shows that the current plan for economic globalization, has taken away America’s freedom to govern, and enact the type of protections the largest elected voice of the people have ask for, because of economic domination.

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