Green Guide

Michigan ecologists scour rivers for invasive mud snails

Posted November 21

— State ecologists have scoured more than 20 Michigan rivers and tributaries in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas for signs of an invasive mollusk that was discovered in the state last year.

MLive ( ) reports Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Quality ecologists have been searching the waters for New Zealand mud snail in "high risk" sites in the Betsie, Platte, Manistee and Rogue rivers.

The snails have now been confirmed in three coldwater trout streams: The Pere Marquette, The Au Sable and The Boardman.

"There's no getting rid of them at this point," said Mark Luttenton, a biology professor at Grand Valley State University's Annis Water Resources Institute. "We're just kind of holding on to see what happens."

Experts are worried the species could become a disruptive nuisance like the invasive zebra and quagga mussels if large populations overtake Michigan's inland waters.

Dave Mahan, retired director of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, said the snails are easy to miss because they're so small.

Two of Mahan's undergraduate students had discovered the organisms in the Boardman River this past June.

Mahan later realized that he'd been seeing the invasive snails along the Boardman River banks for several years, but hadn't registered that the tiny mollusk was anything other than just another of the multiple native snail species.

"We don't want New Zealand mud snails to become the zebra mussels of our rivers," said Mahan. "I'm not saying it's going to happen, but unfortunately, the potential is there."

Zebra mussels were discovered in Lake St. Clair in 1988. They had disrupted every level of the Great Lakes natural ecosystem and had become a major headache for power plant intakes, water supply systems, industrial complexes and marinas. The overall estimated impacts cost is more than $500 million per year.


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