The Science of Food Web Disruption

Scientists who study the Great Lakes share many stories about how food webs have changed since the arrival of zebra and quagga mussels. The stories tell of dramatic change in a short span of time.


Click on the pictures to the right to gain a general understanding of how the filter-feeding mussels have disrupted aquatic food webs in the Great Lakes. For a deeper explanation, click on Food Web Impacts.


Click below to watch my short film, Life in Our Lake, to understand why you should care.


The visualizations were created by Christopher Poff. The phytoplankton image is courtesy of NOAA. The other images were contributed to Michael Timm for Life in Our Lake.


Film Credits

Life in Our Lake: a film by michael alan timm

More about mussels

NOAA article from 2014

Researchers find that quagga mussels can select which phytoplankton they eat as they filter-feed in the Great Lakes.


Explanation of mussel impacts published in 2013

Drs. Carmen Aguilar and Russel Cuhel share the story of how quagga mussels have dramatically transformed Lake Michigan food webs. Includes underwater video clips.


USGS on mussel invasion

Facts, figures and context on zebra and quagga mussels plus an interactive map showing their spread.


Invasives spreading historic contaminants

Mussels and gobies were found to uptake PCBs, toxic chemicals that historically contaminated Green Bay decades ago.