Population Dynamics of Zebra Mussels (Dreissena Polymorpha) in a North Texas Reservoir: Implications for Invasions in the Southern United States

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This dissertation has two main objectives: first, quantify the effects of environmental conditions on spatio-temporal spawning and larval dynamics of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha [Pallas 1771]) in Lake Texoma, and second, quantify the effects of environmental conditions on survival, growth, and reproduction of young of the year (YOY) juvenile zebra mussels. These biological responses directly influence population establishment success and invasive spread dynamics. Reproductive output of the zebra mussel population in Lake Texoma was significantly related to water temperature and lake elevation. Annual maximum larval (veliger) density decreased significantly indicating a population crash, which was likely caused by thermal stress ... continued below

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Churchill, Christopher J. December 2013.

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  • Churchill, Christopher J.

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Description

This dissertation has two main objectives: first, quantify the effects of environmental conditions on spatio-temporal spawning and larval dynamics of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha [Pallas 1771]) in Lake Texoma, and second, quantify the effects of environmental conditions on survival, growth, and reproduction of young of the year (YOY) juvenile zebra mussels. These biological responses directly influence population establishment success and invasive spread dynamics. Reproductive output of the zebra mussel population in Lake Texoma was significantly related to water temperature and lake elevation. Annual maximum larval (veliger) density decreased significantly indicating a population crash, which was likely caused by thermal stress and variability of lake elevation. In 2011, temperatures peaked at 34.3°C and lake elevation decreased to the lowest level recorded during the previous 18 years, which desiccated a substantial number of settled mussels in littoral zones. Estimated mean date of first spawn in Lake Texoma was observed approximately 1.5 months earlier than in Lake Erie, and peak veliger densities were observed two months earlier. Veligers were observed in the deepest oxygenated water after lake stratification. During a 69-day in situ experiment during summer in Lake Texoma, age-specific mortality of zebra mussels was generally high until temperatures decreased to approximately 28°C, which was observed after lake turnover in late summer. No study organism died after temperatures decreased to less than 26°C, which indicates individuals that survive high summer temperatures are likely to persist into autumn/winter. Shell length growth and soft tissue growth rates were related to temperature and chlorophyll-a concentration, respectively. Growth rates of study organisms were among the highest ever reported for D. polymorpha. Water temperature and body size influenced reproduction of YOY zebra mussels in Lake Texoma. Fecundity of females were positively related to temperature; however, sperm production was negatively related to temperature, which indicates males could be more sensitive to physiologically-stressful conditions than females and could perform better in cooler waters. YOY mussels spawned up to approximately 40,000 eggs and 3.47E+08 sperm after a single-summer growing season. Reproductive effort and reproductive mass were independent of sex. YOY individuals from each study site (n = 5) were able to spawn viable gametes capable of sperm binding and egg cleavage, which provides the first evidence that YOY zebra mussels can successfully reproduce. Individual mortality of zebra mussels will likely be high in warm waters and intermittent, extreme droughts, which are observed more frequently at lower latitudes, can significantly reduce population sizes. However, rapid growth and single-season maturation can decrease generation times and could facilitate establishment and spread of zebra mussels in warm-water environments in the southern United States.

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  • December 2013

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  • Nov. 8, 2014, 11:56 a.m.

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  • Nov. 16, 2016, 12:30 p.m.

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Churchill, Christopher J. Population Dynamics of Zebra Mussels (Dreissena Polymorpha) in a North Texas Reservoir: Implications for Invasions in the Southern United States, dissertation, December 2013; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc407755/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .