Environmental and economic problems associated with the colonization of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) in western Lake Erie created a need to investigate control mechanisms. Predation by fishes is one potential means of control, but predation on zebra mussels by native fishes in Lake Erie is unknown. The freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens) is the most likely fish predator since it is the only fish with pharyngeal teeth capable of crushing mollusk shells. In 1990, freshwater drum were collected in western Lake Erie from 9 sites near rocky reefs and 13 sites with silt or sand bottoms, and gut contents were examined. Predation on zebra mussels increased as drum size increased. Small drum (200-249 mm in length) fed mainly on dipterans, amphipods, and small fish; small zebra mussels (<2.0 mm in length) comprised only a trace of gut contents. Medium-sized drum (250-374 mm in length) at reef sites fed predominantly on dipterans in May and on zebra mussels in July and September. The diet of medium-sized drum in locations with silt or sand bottoms shifted from zebra mussels in July to small fish in September. Large drum (>375 mm in length) fed almost exclusively on zebra mussels (seasons and locations combined). The smallest drum capable of crushing zebra mussel shells was 265 mm. Since freshwater drum over 375 mm feed heavily on zebra mussels, they may become a possible biological control mechanism for mussels in portions of North America.
Additional publication details
Predation of the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) by freshwater drum in western Lake Erie