University of Wisconsin–Madison

Zebra Mussels Found in Lake Mendota

by Adam Hinterthuer, Limnology News – Number 24, Fall 2015

This zebra mussel, with its telltale striped pattern and D-shaped shell, was collected from rocks just off the Hasler Lab pier

In the fall of 2009, a group of UW-Madison undergraduates made a startling discovery in the waters off the campus shoreline. Spiny water fleas, a type of invasive zooplankton believed to be suited only to cooler lakes in more northern climates, turned up in their nets as they collected samples for their lab session.

This October, Zoology 316, the popular undergraduate limnology lab, struck again: zebra mussels, the Great Lakes’ most infamous invasive species, have arrived in Lake Mendota.

While the discovery of the spiny water flea left scientists wondering how a cold-water animal was thriving in a warm-water lake, the big question surrounding zebra mussels is “what took them so long?”

“I would have predicted that they would have gotten here earlier,” says Jake Vander Zanden, a professor at the CFL and expert on aquatic invasive species. “It’s not that it’s inevitable our lakes get invaded, but we’ve known that Mendota is a good candidate for a long time.”

To read more about the discovery, and to see videos, slideshows and more content about how CFL faculty and students are researching zebra mussels in Lake Mendota, head over to our blog and search for “zebra mussels.”