U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 58: 1208–1221 (2001). DOI: 10.1139/cjfas-58-6-1208


Microcystis aeruginosa, a planktonic colonial cyanobacterium, was not abundant in the 2-year period before zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) establishment in Saginaw Bay (Lake Huron) but became abundant in three of five summers subsequent of mussel establishment. Using novel methods, we determined clearance, capture, and assimilation rates for zebra mussels feeding on natural and laboratory M. aeruginosa strains offered alone or in combination with other algae. Results were consistent with the hypothesis that zebra mussels promoted blooms of toxic M. aeruginosa in Saginaw Bay, western Lake Erie, and other lakes through selective rejection in pseudofeces. Mussels exhibited high feeding rates similar to those seen for a highly desirable food alga (Cryptomonas) with both large (>53 mm) and small (<53 mm) colonies of a nontoxic and a toxic laboratory strain of M. aeruginosa known to cause blockage of feeding in zooplankton. In experiments with naturally occurring toxic M. aeruginosa from Saginaw Bay and Lake Erie and a toxic isolate from Lake Erie, mussels exhibited lowered or normal filtering rates with rejection of M. aeruginosa in pseudofeces. Selective rejection depended on “unpalatable” toxic strains of M. aeruginosa occurring as large colonies that could be rejected efficiently while small desirable algae were ingested.