There are presently four freshwater bivalves in the United States that produce larvae or veligers commonly found in the water column: two forms of Asian clams and two species of dreissenids. Portions of the geographic range of three of these bivalves, one species of Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea), zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), and quagga mussels (Dreissena rosteriformis bugensis), overlap, causing problems with larval identification. To determine which characteristics can be used to separate larval forms, adult Asian clams, quaggas, and zebra mussels were brought into the laboratory and induced to spawn, and the resulting larvae were reared. Hybrids between quaqqas and zebra mussels were also produced, but not reared to maturity. Characteristics allowing for the most rapid and accurate separation of larvae were hinge length, shell length/height, shell shape, shell size, and the presence or absence of a foot and velum. These characteristics were observed in laboratory-reared larvae of known parentage and field-caught larvae of unknown parentage. In most cases, larvae of the Asian clam can be readily separated from those produced by either type of dreissenid on the basis of shell size and presence of a foot. Separating the gametes and embryos of the two types of dreissenids is not possible, but after shell formation, most of the larval stages can be distinguished. Hinge length, shell length/height, and the similarity in size of the shell valves can be used to separate straight-hinged, umbonal, pediveliger, and plantigrade larvae. Quagga X zebra mussel hybrids show characteriestics of both parents and are difficult to identify.
Additional publication details
Identification of larvae: The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), quagga mussel (Dreissena rosteriformis bugensis), and Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea)