Zebra mussels were first observed in Texas in 2009 in a reservoir (Lake Texoma) on the Texas-Oklahoma border. In 2012, an established population was found in a near-by reservoir, Ray Roberts Lake, and in June 2013, settled mussels were detected in a third north Texas reservoir, Lake Lewisville. An established population was detected in Belton Lake in September 2013. With the exception of Louisiana, these occurrences in Texas mark the current southern extent of the range of this species in the United States. Previous studies indicate that zebra mussel populations could be affected by environmental conditions, especially increased temperatures and extreme droughts, which are characteristic of surface waters of the southern and southwestern United States. Data collected during the first three years (2010–12) of a long-term monitoring program were analyzed to determine if spatio-temporal zebra mussel spawning and larval dynamics were related to physicochemical water properties in Lake Texoma. Reproductive output of the local population was significantly related to water
temperature and lake elevation. Estimated mean date of first spawn in Lake Texoma was approximately 1.5 months earlier and peak veliger densities were observed two months earlier than in Lake Erie. Annual maximum veliger density declined significantly during the study period (p < 0.0001). A population crash occurred as a result of thermal stress and variability of lake elevation. In summer 2011, water temperatures peaked at 34.3°C and lake elevation declined to the lowest level recorded during the previous 18 years, which resulted in desiccation of substantial numbers of settled mussels in littoral zones. Veliger spatial distributions were associated with physicochemical stratification characteristics. Veligers were observed in the deepest oxygenated water after lake stratification, which occurred in late spring. Results of this study indicate environmental conditions can influence variability of population sizes and spatial distributions of zebra mussels along the current southern frontier of their geographic range. Although the future population size trajectory and geographic range are uncertain, increased temperatures and intermittent, extreme droughts likely will affect spatio-temporal dynamics of established populations if zebra mussels spread farther into the southern and southwestern United States.