MADISON, Wis. - Zebra mussels have been found in Lake Mendota by a University of Wisconsin zoology class.
A release from the UW-Madison Center for Limnology said the researchers predicted the invasive species would have made it to Lake Mendota sooner than it was found because the lake is suitable zebra mussel habitat and is close to many lakes that have already been invaded.
"While the zebra mussels aren't overrunning the lake bottom, they are firmly established, with individuals ranging from 1 to 3 years old tucked into crevasses or under the base of rocks in near-shore waters from places like Picnic Point to Tenney Park and Maple Bluff," the release said.
Zebra mussels typically improve water clarity, but their shells might eventually coat the bottom of the lake, making it difficult to walk in the lake. Lakefront homeowners might also have to keep boats out of the water to prevent damage.
"You're likely to cut your feet when you're walking in the water," UW limnology professor Jake Vander Zanden said. "Another concern is that it tends to increase the prevalence of blue-green algae blooms, which can be toxic."
Vander Zanden said zebra mussels have not been found in Lake Monona, and boaters can help keep it that way by drying their boats.
"It's really important to make sure we are not transporting water from one lake to another because they have microscopic larva," Vander Zanden said.
The mussels also concentrate a lake's nutrients along the bottom, dramatically changing ecosystem dynamics, and can clog intake valves.
Even though there are an estimated 1 million in Lake Mendota, it's actually a lot less than the trillions that are in other lakes, Vander Zanden said.
Researchers said there is a silver-lining. Lake Mendota happens to be one of the most studied lakes in the world because of UW's Limnology Department. This invasion might give scientists a chance to really understand the mussels and possibly discover how to keep them from spreading, researchers said.
Officials ask anyone who lives along a Madison-area lake, including Wingra and Monona, to call the DNR if they see zebra mussels when they're pulling their boats out of the water this fall.
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