Use of Novel Parasites to Control Naive North American Dreissenid Populations

Project ID: 19097
Principal Investigator: Jacque Keele
Research Topic: Invasive Species
Funded Fiscal Years: 2019, 2020 and 2021
Keywords: None

Research Question

In this project, populations of North American quagga and zebra mussels (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis and D.
polymorpha) are being evaluated in the laboratory for their "naïveté" to closely related parasites that normally infect
only "cousin" Dreissena spp. -- dreissenid species whose evolution diverged from zebra and quagga mussels millions
of years ago. Such isolated "cousin" dreissenid species are present in the Europe and Asia (e.g., D. caputlacus, D.
anatolica, D. blanci, and D. carinata). Since North American populations of zebra and quagga mussels have not
encountered these European/Asian parasites before, infection may prove lethal. Our goal is to identify these
parasites, evaluate them, and one day have a new and novel biocontrol agent for quagga and zebra mussels.
This project has several parts. First, traveling throughout Europe and Asia to collect and look for parasites in isolated
populations of "cousin" dreissenid species. Once these parasites are collected they will be identified by both
morphology and molecular methods to determine if they are new or novel. Once a novel parasite is identified the next
step will involve investigating the parasites life cycle, and to start to evaluate if the parasite would be a candidate for
infecting quagga and zebra mussels. The final step will be to expose naïve quagga or zebra mussels to the parasite
and determine the impact that the parasite has on the mussels. This is a multiyear research project that could have a
great payoff if a hypervirulent parasite to quagga and zebra mussels is identified.

Need and Benefit

Invasive quagga and zebra mussels pose a threat to both Reclamation facilities and waters. Mussel infestations
significantly increase operations and maintenance costs for affected Reclamation, and have the potential to cause
loss of water delivery and power production. They also cause long lasting damage to a water bodies ecosystem and
impact recreation. Finding a cost-effective method to control these mussels is an ongoing process. Currently there is
very little that can be done once the mussels arrive in a body of water to control them. Biocontrol offers a unique and
novel method for the control of the invasive mussels, particularly in water bodies where dreissenids have a
widespread distribution, because parasites introduced into a small area can potentially spread themselves throughout
the entire water body. By identifying parasites of the close cousins of quagga and zebra mussels, we will hopefully be
able to find a hypervirulent parasite that can impact invasive mussels in North America. This research project builds
on many years of parasitology research by Molloy & Associates and the last two years in particular during which
Reclamation has been directly involved as a partner in the Molloy & Associates hunt for a hypervirulent parasite.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Use of Novel Parasites to Control Naive North American Dreissenid Populations (final, PDF, 5.4MB)
By Jacque Keele, Yale Passamaneck, Sherri Pucherelli, Nathan Harms, and Dan Molloy
Report completed on March 31, 2022

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20