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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about... Zebra mussels.


CURWOOD: It's been a decade since zebra mussels were first discovered in North America. Native to Russian waters, they were introduced here accidentally. The story goes that they came from the dumping of a freighter's ballast water. At any rate, the striped mollusk reproduced quickly have few natural predators, so they soon spread to all the Great Lakes and didn't stop there. Zebra mussels are now found in 18 states and 2 Canadian provinces, where they're blamed for eating all the algae and starving out native species of mussels and fish. And unfettered colonies of zebra mussels have also been a nuisance to humans. They once plugged up intake pipes, blocking the flow of water to the city of Monroe, Michigan, for 2 days. But one group isn't complainng. People who fish on Lake Erie say the small-mouth bass population is picking up, and they have the zebra mussels to thank. The lake's water is cleaner because it's being filtered by the masses of mussels. In fact, zebra mussels are so efficient at cleaning water that scientists at Southern Illinois University are studying how the little mollusks can be used to treat polluted streams. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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