Dreissena bugensis

Geographic Range

Originally, Dreissena bugensis had a restricted distribution. Quagga mussels were located in the Dnieper-Bug Estuary and Inguletz river in Ukraine where they were first discovered in 1890. They began to expand throughout Eastern Europe into the Black Sea, Dnieper River, Pripiat River, Main and Rhine Rivers, and to the Don and Manych Rivers. Then, 40 years after the opening of the Volga-Don canal, they invaded the Volgo-Caspian. The canal connected the two. They have also spread to North America and Canada, in Lake Ontario in 1991. The quagga mussel has spread throughout the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, into Michigan, Missouri, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Arizona and California. (Mills, et al., 1996; Rintelen and Van Damme, 2014)


Quagga mussels live in freshwater estuarine habitats. During the planktonic stage the larva swims as a free-living creature in the water. When the mussels become juveniles they attach to natural hard surfaces such as rocks, wood, and plants native to the freshwater lake or pond. In deeper waters where there is less turbulence, they are also able to colonize soft surfaces such as sand. These mussels also attach themselves to man-made structures made of steel, wood, nylon, metal piping, or concrete. Mature mussels tend to attach themselves to these surface structures right under the surface of the water less than 100 meters down unless the wind agitates them, in which case they will live a little deeper down. They have been found as deep as 140 m, though most are found at a depth of about 4 to 10 m. (Britton, 2007; Ianniello, 2013; Mills, et al., 1996; Ussery and McMahon, 1995)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range depth
    140 (high) m
    459.32 (high) ft

Physical Description

Dreissena bugensis, also known as the quagga mussel is a freshwater bivalve mollusk. During the larval, or veliger stage the quagga mussel is microscopic at a size ranging from 40 to 462 micrometers. A full grown quagga mussel is no larger than a thumbnail, which is about 30 to 40 millimeters. The shell of the mussel is a light brown to almost white by the hinge of the shell with black or dark brown stripes/rings. The shell is fan-shaped with edges that come to points on both sides. Between the ventral and dorsal sides the shell has a very rounded angle, or carina. The ventral side of the shell is convex, making it impossible for the shell to be able to stand up. When quaggas are looked at from the ventral view it is very clear that the two valves of the mussel are asymmetrical. (Benson, et al., 2013; Sykes, 2010; "Quagga Mussels", 2014)

  • Range length
    30 to 40 mm
    1.18 to 1.57 in


The life cycle of the quagga mussel starts when fertilization is done externally in the water. Several days after fertilization, trochophore larva develop, starting the planktonic stage of development. A trochophore is a free-swimming larva. In 4 to 5 days the trochophore will change into a D-shaped veliger. Soon the larva will form a part of its shell called the umbone making the larva known as an umbonal veliger. Then the veliger will develop a foot shaped structure, a characteristic of all mollusks, becoming a pediveliger. With the formation of the shell and foot the pediveliger is now able to attach itself to a substrate and start developing into a juvenile mussel. Quagga mussels often stay in the form of a veliger for several weeks before starting the process of becoming a mature mussel. Once a veliger becomes a juvenile mussel it has entered into the benthic stage of development where it becomes sessile and begins to grow. When a female settles into the juvenile stage, it can start reproducing on its second year of life. (Ianniello, 2013)


Fertilization is external for Dreissena bugensis, so mating is limited to males and females in proximity to each other releasing their gametes into the water. (Ianniello, 2013)

Dreissena bugensis are prolific breeders and they produce gametes in abundance. Female dreissenids can produce 40,000 eggs in one reproductive cycle. Females and males live together and fertilization is external once the gametes are released into the water. Water temperature has an effect on reproduction, as warmer water temperatures have shown to initiate quagga mussel spawning. Typically, quagga mussels reproduce year round. (Ianniello, 2013)

  • Breeding season
    Mating takes place year-round.

There is no parental care for Dreissena bugensis. Fertilization occurs outside the body of the female, and the developing mussels are entirely independent of the parents. (Ianniello, 2013)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Typically the lifespan of the Dreissena bugensis is 4 to 5 years. (Ianniello, 2013)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    4 to 5 years


Adult quagga mussels are sessile, meaning that they are fixed in one place and immovable. The larval stage is free-swimming. (Mackie, 2010)

Communication and Perception

These mollusks have no head or eyes. Therefore, they are not able to see. They are able to detect chemicals in the water, as well as gravity, movement, and temperature. If quagga mussels feel threatened, they will tightly close their shell. (Mackie, 2010)

Food Habits

These mussels are filter feeders, meaning that they filter plankton and nutrients suspended in the water. They use cilia, hair-like projections, to pull water into their shell through a tube-like structure, the incurrent siphon. The nutrients are then filtered out and the water then leaves the body of the mussel through another tube-like structure, the excurrent siphon. Adult mussels are able to filter out about one liter of water each day. Filtering can remove phytoplankton, zooplankton, and algae. (Mackie, 2010)


Quagga mussels have few natural predators. One predator is yellow perch, Perca flavescens. A study in 1994 showed that yellow perch found D. bugensis unpalatable, yet ten years later a second study found that yellow perch had introduced the quagga mussel into its diet, becoming one of its few natural predators. (Popple, 2006)

Ecosystem Roles

As an invasive species, Dreissena bugensis has a significant impact on the environment. Quagga mussels can filter large quantities of water, decreasing the levels of plankton and nutrients in the water, depriving other organisms. Quagga mussels often co-habitate with the closely related zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, another invasive species. Quagga mussels have actually displaced zebra mussels in Ukraine, and appear to be doing so in the Great Lakes as well. Quagga mussels are capable of colonizing surfaces at greater depths than zebra mussels, so they tend to dominate at these lower depths.

Quagga mussels also have few natural predators, except for yellow perch, which allows them to further dominate waterways. The predation by yellow perch may actually become detrimental, as a botulism causing bacteria called Clostridium botulinum that accumulates in the quagga mussels through their feeding habits is now being exposed to the pre-existing food chain. Clostridium botulinum has already caused heavy damage in Lake Erie, killing tens of thousands of bird and fish species, posing a serious threat to whatever ecosystem it is present in. (Popple, 2006; Hickie, 2010; Mills, et al., 1996; Popple, 2006)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • bacterium, Clostridium botulinum

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Dreissena bugensis on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Dreissena bugensis is a persistent invasive species, forming thick layers on waterways, impeding water flow, even clogging pipes in water treatment plants. The filter feeding abilities of quagga mussels lower plankton levels and release pseudofeces that raise acid levels in the water it inhabits, causing issues for other organisms in their habitat. (Hickie, 2010; Hoddle, 2011)

Conservation Status

Dreissena bugensis is categorized as "least concern" by the IUCN. As a significant invasive species, with a growing population, efforts are concerned with controlling populations, rather than conservation. (Mackie, 2010)


Ashley Eaton (author), Grand View University, Cody Redmond (author), Grand View University, LundyS Vansylalom (author), Grand View University, Felicitas Avendano (editor), Grand View University, Dan Chibnall (editor), Grand View University, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and tidal influences result in fluctuations in salinity.

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


photosynthetic or plant constituent of plankton; mainly unicellular algae. (Compare to zooplankton.)


an animal that mainly eats plankton


remains in the same area


non-motile; permanently attached at the base.

Attached to substratum and moving little or not at all. Synapomorphy of the Anthozoa


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


Wisconsin DNR. 2014. "Quagga Mussels" (On-line). EEK-Critter Corner. Accessed March 01, 2014 at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/eek/critter/invert/quaggamussel.htm.

Benson, A., M. Richerson, E. Maynard, J. Larson, A. Fusaro. 2013. "Dreissena rostriformis bugensis" (On-line). USGS-Nonidigenous Aquatic Species. Accessed March 05, 2014 at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=95.

Britton, D. 2007. "Zebra & Quagga Mussel Invasion in North America" (On-line pdf). U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Accessed March 01, 2014 at http://www.100thmeridian.org/ActionTeams/RioGrande/zq.pdf.

Hickie, V. 2010. "The Quagga Mussel Crisis At Lake Mead National Recreation Area" (On-line). EBSCO Host. Accessed April 04, 2014 at http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=39c43653-f8df-4732-8450-f77feab6ad2b%40sessionmgr4005&vid=1&hid=4206&bdata=JnNjb3BlPXNpdGU%3d#db=aph&AN=52236531.

Hoddle, M. 2011. "CISR" (On-line). Quagga & Zebra Mussels. Accessed April 02, 2014 at https://cisr.ucr.edu/quagga_zebra_mussels.html.

Ianniello, R. 2013. "Effects of Environmental Variables on the Reproduction of Quagga Mussels (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) in Lake Mead, NV/AZ" (On-line pdf). UNLV. Accessed March 02, 2014 at http://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2843&context=thesesdissertations.

Mackie, G. 2010. "Dreissena bugensis" (On-line). Global Invasive Species Database. Accessed April 04, 2014 at http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=918&fr=1&sts=&lang=EN.

Mackie, G. 2010. "Dreissena bugensis (mollucs)" (On-line). Accessed March 10, 2014 at http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=918&fr=1&sts=&lang=EN.

Mills, E., G. Rosenberg, A. Spidle, M. Ludyanskiy, Y. Pligin, B. May. 1996. A review of the biology and ecology of the quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis), a second species of dreissenid introduced to North America. American Zoologist, 36: 271-286.

Popple, I. 2006. "Perch discover nature's junk food" (On-line). Mcgill. Accessed April 04, 2014 at http://www.mcgill.ca/reporter/37/02/ricciardi/.

Rintelen, T., D. Van Damme. 2014. "Range Description" (On-line). Accessed March 10, 2014 at http://eol.org/data_objects/28096977.

Sykes, C. 2010. "Development of an Efficient Method for Removal of Quagga Mussel Veligers from Transport Tanks at Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery" (On-line pdf). Accessed March 04, 2014 at http://www.lcrmscp.gov/reports/2010/c30_quagga_mussel_10_26sep12.pdf.

Ussery, T., R. McMahon. 1995. "Comparative Study of the Desiccation Resistance of Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and Quagga Mussels (Dreissena bugensis)" (On-line pdf). Accessed March 01, 2014 at http://el.erdc.usace.army.mil/elpubs/pdf/trel95-6.pdf.