The quagga mussel advances to the SmackDown! finals

By Alice Rossignol and Rachael Gleason

The quagga mussel and Eurasian watermilfoil proved to be worthy opponents in last week’s semi-finals tussle.

At first, it seemed like the two water-cloggers were playing nice. But one of the lake invaders prevailed in the end. Was it the thick and slimy Eurasian Invasion? Or the highly adaptable and shielded Quagmeister?

The winner is…

Quagga "The Quagmeister" Mussel. Photo: USGS.

Quagga "The Quagmeister" Mussel. Photo: USGS.

THE QUAGMEISTER

The mussel had overwhelming crowd support. Ninety percent of readers who voted in the lake fight poll put their money on the Quagmeister.

A third of those who filled out brackets guessed the water-filterer would win Round 2, and about 13 percent are still in the running to win a SmackDown! prize.

But like the last semi-finals battle, the science isn’t clear. In many ways, the Eurasian Invasion and the Quagmeister complement each other.

Aquatic plants can provide a foothold for mussel invasion, said David Kelch, associate professor and sea grant extension specialist with Ohio State University’s Sea Grant College Program.

Mussels are able to attach to plants like the Eurasian watermilfoil. Trailer hitches and boats sometimes unknowingly transfer the slimy vegetation — and mussels — to other bodies of water, Kelch said.

But it’s quagga mussels that really pave the way for more lake invaders.

“They filter the water and make it clearer, which is one reason we’ve had a huge increase in aquatic plants in the Lake Erie — because they increase water filtration and water quality,” Kelch said.  

The Ohio Sea Grant program has a laboratory at Put-in-Bay in western Lake Erie. The bay was weed free before zebra and quagga mussels came along, Kelch said.

“Water was turbid with a lot of algae. Sunlight couldn’t get to the bottom and provide sun for plants to grow,” he said. “After zebra and quagga mussels, there was an explosion of vegetation at the bottom of the bay. Now they have to use underwater mowers to clear areas.”

The increased vegetation is a thriving habitat for some species of fish — good and bad, Kelch said.

That’s why the Quagmeister is moving onto the finals; there are thousands of them, and they impact all levels of the food chain.

“If you look at the number of quagga mussels at the bottom of Lake Erie, we’re talking 100,000-plus filtering water every day. That’s a tremendous amount of potential impact,” Kelch said. “The impact to an inland lake is much greater.”

Can the Quagmeister take down the blood-sucking sea lamprey in the SmackDown! finals? Stay tuned for the championship round.

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About Rachael Gleason
Rachael Gleason

Rachael Gleason is a graduate of the Michigan State University and Knight Center for Environmental Journalism master's program. Rachael edited EJ Magazine and reported for Great Lakes Echo for two years. She currently focuses on water privatization issues. Rachael was quiz editor, SmackDown! editor and had a standing feature called Monday Mashup, where she reviewed interactive maps of the Great Lakes region. Rachael is originally from Texas, where she worked as a reporter, photographer and desk editor for several years. In addition to working for the daily newspaper of Huntsville, Rachael also worked as a business reporter for The Houston Chronicle, the newspaper of her hometown. Office: (517) 432-5155 Twitter: @rachaelgleason