Managers Volunteers Partners

Zebra Mussel

Photo by Randy Westbrooks, U.S. Geological Survey,

Additional Images

Common Name: Zebra mussel
Scientific Name: Dreissena polymorpha
Origin: Eurasia


Zebra mussels are filter-feeding, freshwater, bivalve mollusks. Zebra mussels are small, ¼” to 1 ½” long, and D-shaped with light and dark brown stripes.


Zebra mussels inhabit freshwater habitats up to depths of 50 ft., attaching to most surfaces including sand, silt and harder substrates.


Invasive mussels displace native species, attach to and cover many surfaces, have sharp shells, and are a nuisance to humans. Although they have some predators, they breed faster than they can be consumed. As filter-feeders, they remove particles from the water, affecting the clarity, content and ultimately the food chain of aquatic ecosystems.


Once established, very little can be done apart from manual removal. In closed human systems such as water treatment plants, chemical, thermal, electrical and biological controls can be used. The best method is prevention by cleaning boats, bait buckets and gear.

Regional Distribution


WNY PRISM Priority

Tier 4 – Local Control

Invasive Species Priorities – Tier Chart


Zebra mussels were introduced via ship ballast water.

The zebra mussel is a prohibited species in New York State – for more information on Prohibited and Regulated Species, visit

This map shows confirmed observations (green points) submitted to the NYS Invasive Species Database. Absence of data does not necessarily mean absence of the species at that site, but that it has not been reported there. For more information, please visit iMapInvasives.