The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) has spread rapidly in temperate fresh waters of North America since its introduction into the Great Lakes in 1985 or 1986. It attaches to hard substrates, forming layers, occluding water intakes, encrusting and killing native mussels, filtering algae in competition with other planktivores, and possibly interfering with fish spawning. It reproduces prolifically, suggesting that an approach to its control may be by controlling its reproduction. Previous literature suggests that spawning in bivalves is regulated by both environmental and internal chemical cues. A suggested sequence is that phytoplankton chemicals initially trigger spawning; chemicals associated with gametes provide a species-specific pheromonal positive feedback for spawning; and the response to environmental chemicals is mediated internally by serotonin (5-HT). The role of 5-HT in zebra mussels is under investigation. Both males and females can be induced to spawn by either injection or external application of 5-HT. The response can also be activated by 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)-tetralin, an agonist at 5-HT1A receptors. HPLC analysis has detected 5-HT as the major biogenic amine in both male and female gonads. 5-HT immunocytochemistry demonstrates nerves containing serotonergic fibers innervating gonads of both males and females, with prominent varicosities surrounding the follicles in both sexes. A role of 5-HT in mediating spawning responses in zebra mussels is thus strongly supported. These studies have shown that reproductive behavior of zebra mussels can be modified by outside chemicals, a property that may be exploited for purposes of control.
Additional publication details
The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), a new pest in North America: reproductive mechanisms as possible targets of control strategies