Quagga mussels cover nearly all shipwrecks and sunken aircraft in the lower Great Lakes, except for Lake Superior.
About 6,000 shipwrecks in the waters of the Great Lakes, a group of five lakes located on the border between the US and Canada, are at risk of being destroyed by a group of small freshwater mollusks, known as quagga mussels (‘Dreissena bugensis’), the New York Post reported this Saturday.
Documented quagga and zebra mussels are some the most aggressive invasive species in the United States, because they damage hydraulic infrastructure by blocking water intakes and dams. However, unlike zebra mussels, quagga mussels are more hungry, as well as more resistant and tolerant of low temperatures in the environment where they live.
It is suggested that the quagga mussel, native to the Black and Caspian Seas, migrated to the US East Coast in the 1980s via shipping containers from Ukraine. Later, they moved to the Great Lakes area using boats and other water equipment.
The population of these mollusks swallow plankton and other nutrients at a rapid rate, which causes the disappearance of these organisms, which belong to the first level of the food chain, on which other native aquatic species also depend. Because of this situation, some dark parts of the Great Lakes become crystal clear like tropical seas, so the remnants of the shipwrecks that are there are visible to the naked eye.
These creatures can colonize even the sandy bottom of the lakes, because they follow the soft surfaces located at a greater depth. According to Wisconsin marine archaeologist Tamara Thomsen, if the water reservoirs that make up the Great Lakes are drained, “a plate” of these tiny mollusks will be removed.
Specialists revealed that the quagga covered almost all shipwrecks, as well as sunken aircraft, found in the lower Great Lakes, except for Lake Superior. They also detail that these mollusks hide in the wood of ships, forming heavy layers that eventually collapse their walls and decks.
A race against time to save many shipwrecks
At the same time, the researchers specified that the quagga produces acid that destroys the iron and steel of the boats, in addition to creating clouds of carbon dioxide. However, they emphasize that so far no way has been found to stop them, forcing archaeologists and historians to save as many ships as possible before the mollusks reach eight states of the United States and the province of Canada. in Ontario.
After 30 years of colonization, quaggas have replaced the zebra mussel as the dominant species in the Great Lakes. According to the Invasive Species Research Center at the University of California, Riverside, zebra mussels made up more than 98 percent of the mollusk species in Lake Michigan in 2000. Instead, after five years, the quagga represented the 97.7%.