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Literature on mollusk-eating fishes was reviewed to determine the potential for different species of fish to control zebra mussels in eastern North America. At least six species are potential predators of zebra mussels because they possess (1) both upper and lower pharyngeal teeth or (2) lower pharyngeal teeth and chewing pads located on the dorsal roof for crushing mollusk shells. Freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens) and two centrarchids, redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) and pumpkinseed (L. gibbosus), possess both upper and lower pharyngeal teeth and are likely to consume more zebra mussels than fishes with only lower pharyngeal teeth. Only two catostomid species, copper and river redhorses (Moxostoma hubbsi and M. carinatum), have chewing pads that enable them to crush mollusks. The exotic omnivorous common carp (Cyprinus carpio), possessing lower teeth and a chewing pad, may prey on zebra mussels when aquatic insect larvae, its preferred food, become rare. Managing populations or drum, sunfishes, and redhorses to reduce exploitation of large individuals and improve their habitats are suggested as means to intensify biological control of zebra mussels in eastern North America. Other Eurasian molluscivores, the roach (Rutilus rutilus) and the black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) should not be introduced into North America because research has shown repeatedly that an introduced biological controller usually does not forage for unwanted pests or reside only in preferred habitats of pests. Drum, sunfishes and redhorses should be preferred over these exotics as biological controllers of zebra mussels in North America because these native fishes will likely occupy newly established habitats of zebra mussels.
Additional Publication Details
How well can fishes prey on zebra mussels in eastern North America?