Potential effects on zooplankton from species shifts in planktivorous mussels: A field experiment in the St Lawrence River

James H. Thorp, Andrew F. Casper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Suspension feeding by bivalves exceeds that by other planktivores in many North American rivers, and food webs may be altered substantially by differences in feeding patterns between native unionid mussels and invading dreissenid mussels. 2. We conducted an experiment comparing zooplanktivory by one unionid and two dreissenid species that addressed several primary questions. Is benthic planktivory important in this river? Has this linkage been altered substantially by dreissenids? Do the two dreissenid species differ in planktivory, and is this ecologically important if quagga mussels extend their geographical range? 3. Our 12-day experiment consisted of controls (no mussels) and treatments with unionid (Elliptio complanata), quagga (Dreissena bugensis) or zebra (D. polymorpha) mussels in 3500-L, 80-μm mesh enclosures placed in a slackwater area of the St Lawrence River. 4. The density of the most abundant calanoid copepod Eurytemora affinis increased in the presence of dreissenids, probably as an indirect food web response. By day 12, a cumulative effect was shown by the most overwhelmingly abundant rotifer, Polyarthra, whose density declined dramatically in dreissenid enclosures compared with control and unionid enclosures. Rotifer densities in unionid enclosures were not different from controls, nor were dreissenid treatments different from each other. The effects on rotifers were probably from predation, as Chl-a did not vary among treatments. 5. We conclude that benthic-pelagic coupling via planktivory is important in slackwater areas. Dreissenids have strengthened this linkage, but range extension of quaggas should not appreciably alter effects produced by a similar biomass of zebra mussels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-119
Number of pages13
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Dreissena bugensis
  • Dreissena polymorpha
  • Elliptio complanata
  • Predator-prey
  • Unionidae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Potential effects on zooplankton from species shifts in planktivorous mussels: A field experiment in the St Lawrence River'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this