Today’s biology lesson is about the life cycle of zebra mussels. As an added bonus, I’m going to provide a little instruction in the lost art of journalism.
First, read this excerpt from an article about the exotic shellfish on the KAAL website in Minnesota:
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"Say you've pumped in 100 gallons of water off Lake Minnetonka and it comes in now and then pumps out, any villagers that happen to be in that tank can't get out either,” said Larry Meddock with the Water Sports Industry Association. The villagers are trapped. That's important because the filter reduces the risk of any hitchhikers being transported from one lake to another through ballast tanks on boats.
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Now here’s the journalism lesson: Know what you’re talking about.
And here’s a clue to the biology lesson: “Villagers” don’t live in water; they live in a village. And they are people, not zebra mussels.
What, then, are the “villagers” that the KAAL author is referring to? Had she bothered to do any research, she would have discovered that the correct term is “veligers.”
Here’s what you need to know about zebra mussels and what that article failed miserably to explain:
Veligers are the microscopic, free-swimming larvae of zebra and other mussels. They can drift in the water for several weeks, before settling onto hard surfaces to grow into hard-shell adults.
They likely were introduced to the Great Lakes as veligers in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. They also are being spread within the United States in ballast, as well as in bilges, livewells and any other water left in a boats as they leave infected waterways.
As adults, they can hitchhike by attaching to boat hulls, props, and trailers, surviving out of water for a week or so.
That’s why it’s so important that you clean, drain, and dry your boat after leaving any water infected with zebra or quagga mussels. And the failure of many to take these precautions is a major reason that these problematic shellfish have spread out from the Great Lakes, and, in recent years even crossed the Continental Divide.
Aside from outcompeting native species for oxygen, food, and habitat, they clog water and hydropower plants, costing the nation’s economy more than $1 billion a year in damages and associated control costs annually.
Stop the spread of “veligers,” and leave the “villagers” alone.