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Zebra mussels | Where did they come from and why are they an issue?

KVUE's Jay Wallis decided to take a (somewhat) hands-on approach to try and figure out why zebra mussels are the way they are.

AUSTIN, Texas — It's the freshwater animal that has been causing many issues for Austinites: Dreissena polymorpha, or more commonly known as, zebra mussels.

These creatures got into some of Austin's water pipes, which caused some stinky water for many residents. However, while many of us have heard the phrase "zebra mussels" before, what is this species?

Zebra mussels are native to the Caspian Sea region and got their name in 1769 by German zoologist Peter Simon Pallas. At the time of Pallas' description of the animal, he noticed a striped pattern on the shells, which is why he gave this species its given name. However, that pattern is not as noticeable as it once was.

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Zebra mussels are typically the size of a human fingernail, with the ability to grow up to nearly two inches. In North America, they have now become an invasive species. 

Zebra mussel

The reason they so often cling onto pipes is because these devices provide both protection and a constant flow of water. This is important for zebra mussels since it provides a constant food supply with zebra mussels processing up to one liter of water per day, per mussel.

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