, Volume 135, Issue 3, pp 332–338 | Cite as

Food quality controls reproduction of the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)

  • Alexander Wacker
  • Eric von Elert


Species such as Dreissena polymorpha sometimes contribute substantially in the transfer of primary to secondary production. During the ontogenetic cycle, the reproductive investment of adult mussels is one of the main parameters that affect recruitment success. We studied how food quality and temperature affect the reproductive investment in term of egg mass of D. polymorpha in a lake by sampling mussels monthly from 4 m and 15 m depths. Temperature affected reproduction directly and also indirectly through the food. To assess whether temperature and/or food conditions led to the differences observed in mussels sampled from the two depths, mussels were reared in the laboratory under two different temperature regimes for 3 months, simulating the temperature of the lake at 4 m and 15 m depth. Possible effects of food quality were tested at each temperature using four diets differing in fatty acid composition. Temperature played an important role as a trigger for spawning, and the type of diet clearly affected the reproductive investment. When the heterokont chromophyte alga Nannochloropsis limnetica, which is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and long-chained PUFAs (>C18), was fed to mussels, an increased egg mass was obtained. This result was in contrast to that found when the green alga Scenedesmus obliquus and the cyanobacterium Aphanothece sp., both of which are deficient in long-chained PUFAs, were offered as food to the mussels. Such a PUFA-dependent food quality may affect reproduction in lakes. Food quality effects vary seasonally in a lake and may be most important in summer, when low-food-quality green algae and cyanobacteria are abundant. The low biochemical quality of these blooms may affect at least the later period of gametogenesis of D. polymorpha, which reproduces from June to August.


Fatty acids Larvae Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) Reproduction Temperature 



This study was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the Collaborative Research Centre SFB 454 "Littoral Zone of Lake Constance". We sincerely wish to thank the scientific diving group of the University of Constance, in particular M. Mörtl. We thank G. Bauer and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful and valuable comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Limnological InstituteUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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