The reproductive cycle of the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) is highly variable throughout its range in Europe, Russia, and North America. The environmental factors influencing this variation are poorly understood, but successful reproduction is occurring in areas where it was initially believed that adult zebra mussels could not survive (i.e., southern United States). The differences in mussel reproduction occurring from site-to-site make it difficult to predict timing of specific events, such as the start of larval production, that are important in initiating containment or control procedures. For example, the amount of time required for a fertilized egg to develop into a juvenile mussel can be as short as 8 days, or as long as 240 days. Release of gametes by adults can be a highly synchronized event, focused over a 1-2 week period, or it can be completely non-synchronized, occurring throughout the year. Zebra mussels in some localities start spawning at water temperatures of 12-13A?C, but do not start until water temperatures reaches 22A?C at other sites. While some of this variability in reproductive behavior stems from mussel adaptation to local conditions, part is due to difficulties in sampling these events. It is difficult to determine reproductive success of a specific population because of the problems in separating locally produced larvae from larvae drifting in from other areas. Further research is needed not only on the relationship between reproduction and environment at the community level, but also on the variability in response of individual mussels.
Additional publication details
Variations in the reproductive cycle of Dreissena polymorpha in Europe, Russia, and North America