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Invasive Species: Zebra Mussel

Zebra Mussel

(Dreissena polymorpha)
*Established in Michigan*


Report this species:

Use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) online reporting tool

- Or - download the MISIN smartphone app and report from your phone



  • Average length of a zebra mussel is about 1 inch.
  • Zebra shells are triangular in shape and can sit flat on the ventral side.
  • Colors vary - shell color ranges from almost white to tan or brown in both species, usually have darker concentric rings but are not always pronounced.

zebra mussel
Photo courtesy of Amy Benson, U.S. Geological Survey,

zebra mussels
Photo courtesy of Amy Benson, U.S. Geological Survey,


zebra mussels on mussel
Zebra mussels attached to another mussel. Randy Westbrooks, Invasive Plant Control Inc., 

Habitat: Freshwater lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Zebra mussels require hard substrates to latch onto, while quagga mussels can attach to hard or soft substrates in water depth up to 130 meters. This leads to a less restricted range of suitable habitat than for the zebra mussel.

Diet: Mussels are filter feeders that consume algae and phytoplankton in the water. Zebra mussels can filter up to 1 liter of water each day.

Native Range: Zebra mussels are native to freshwater rivers and lakes in Eastern Europe and western Asia.

Local Concern: Prodigious filter feeding removes a substantial amount of particulates and phytoplankton. In turn, this decreases food for zooplankton, increases water transparency, and leads to an accumulation of pseudofeces. Pseudofeces accumulation creates foul environments. Zebra mussels have been known to colonize on native mussel species in groups of up to 10,000 individuals, rendering the native mussel immobile and unable to survive. There is also an economic cost associated with mussel attachment to pipes and other underwater structures.

Means of Introduction: Ballast water from transoceanic vessels.

Status and Strategy for Zebra and Quagga Mussel Management This document provides in-depth information about zebra and quagga mussels in Michigan including identification, distribution, management and control options.

Zebra and Quagga Mussel Invasive Species Alert (printable PDF)