Sympatric Dreissena species in the Meuse River: Towards a dominance shift from zebra to quagga mussels

Jonathan Marescaux, Pieter Boets, Julien Lorquet, Rose Sablon, Karine Van Doninck, Jean-Nicolas Beisel

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The rapid spread of the quagga mussel, Dreissena rostriformis, in Western Europe is of particular concern since the species is known to have serious ecological and economic impacts, similar to those of the well-established zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha. This study aimed (1) to provide an update on the quagga mussel distribution in several Belgian inland waterways, and (2) to check if a shift in dominance between Dreissena species is occurring. Using density measurements and artificial substrate samplers, we compared population dynamics for both species at different time-points based on size-frequency distribution. Our results show that quagga mussels are spreading rapidly throughout Belgium via a number of possible invasion fronts based around large rivers and canals. The quagga mussel became the dominant dreissenid species in both the Meuse River and a number of Belgian canals. In just three years, quagga mussel’s relative abundance increased from 2.9% (±2.9) to 52.6% (±43.1) of the total dreissenid population in the Meuse River. The most rapid increase in abundance has occurred in the Albert Canal, where quagga mussels achieved a mean relative abundance of 80% two years after the first observation. In the Meuse River, the quagga mussel displays a faster growth rate and/or earlier reproduction than the zebra mussel. We discuss different mechanisms that could explain the quagga mussel’s apparent competitive advantage over the zebra mussel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-298
Number of pages12
JournalAquatic Invasions
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Competition
  • Dominance shift
  • Dreissena polymorpha
  • Dreissena rostriformis
  • Population dynamics
  • Range expansion


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