, Volume 545, Issue 1, pp 93–102 | Cite as

The effects of predation and unionid burrowing on bivalve communities in a Laurentian Great Lake coastal wetland

  • Richard Bowers
  • Judy C. Sudomir
  • Mark W. Kershner
  • Ferenc A. de SzalayEmail author
Primary Research Paper


Unionid (Mollusca: Unionidae) densities have declined dramatically throughout the Laurentian Great Lakes after the introduction of dreissenid mussels (Mollusca: Dreissenidae). Recent surveys in some Great Lake coastal wetlands have found abundant unionid populations, but the factors that reduce zebra mussels on unionids in these habitats are not well understood. In 2001–2002, we tested effects of predation and unionid burrowing on corbiculids, sphaeriids and dreissenids in a Great Lake coastal wetland in western Lake Erie. In one experiment, we reduced access by molluscivores using exclosures with two mesh sizes (1.3 cm × 1.3 cm; 5 cm × 10 cm) and sampled bivalves after 15 months. Small mesh exclosures had higher numbers of dreissenids, Corbicula fluminea and sphaeriids (54.9, 3.8, 22.6 individuals/m2, respectively) than large mesh exclosures (0.0, 1.13, 0.13 individuals/m2, respectively) or open controls (0.3, 1.0, 0.1 individuals/m2, respectively). Numbers of dreissenids on C. fluminea were higher in small mesh exclosures (3.8 dreissenids/Corbicula) than in large mesh exclosures (0.1 dreissenids/Corbicula) or cageless controls (0␣dreissenids/Corbicula). In a second experiment, we held two species of live unionids (Leptodea fragilis, Quadrula quadrula) and immobile Pyganodon grandis shells in exclosures (2.5 cm × 2.5 cm mesh) with either 5 cm, 10 cm, or 20 cm deep sediments and sampled bivalves after 2 months. There were fewer dreissenids on L. fragilis than P. grandis shells, but there was no difference in the number of dreissenids on Q. quadrula and P. grandis shells. Numbers of attached dreissenids were higher inside (189–494 dreissenids/unionid) than outside (8–11 dreissenids/unionid) exclosures, and densities of sphaeriid and C. fluminea clams were also higher inside (21.8, 4.7 individuals/m2, respectively) than outside (0.4, 0.9 individuals/m2, respectively) exclosures. Numbers of attached dreissenids were higher on unionids that could burrow below the sediments (20 cm depth) than unionids in shallow sediments (5 cm depth) for unexplained reasons. Our data suggest that molluscivores can play a pivotal role in limiting numbers of bivalves including dreissenids in coastal wetlands.


Dreissenidae Unionidae Sphaeriidae Laurentian Great Lakes coastal wetlands predation 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Bowers
    • 1
    • 2
  • Judy C. Sudomir
    • 1
  • Mark W. Kershner
    • 1
  • Ferenc A. de Szalay
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Kent State UniversityDepartment of Biological SciencesKentUSA
  2. 2.Edwards-Pitman Environmental, Inc.SmyrnaUSA

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