Information Last Reviewed Spring 2007
The golden mussel, a macrofouling bivalve, was introduced into Argentina from Asia in 1991 and within a decade spread to four other South American countries. The invasion of the zebra mussel (a morphologically similar bivalve) into North American waters demonstrated the vulnerability of industrial water conduits to macrofouling species. Although these two species share some of the physical characteristics, the golden mussel exhibits a wider tolerance of ecological parameters than the zebra mussel. Therefore, if introduced into North American waters, the golden mussel is expected to invade a broader range of habitats.
Class: Bivalvia (Pelecypoda)
Mean shell length 2-8 mm
Use byssal threads to attach to substrates
Mussels are considered adults when they become sexually mature at about 1 year of age
Shell appears golden or yellowish in color
Shell length of 20 mm is common; maximum shell length of about 40 mm and 60 mm, respectively, in some South American and Asian populations
Umbones very nearly terminal, dorsal ligament margin is nearly straight
Does not posses hinge teeth or byssal notch
Mantle fusion occurs dorsally
Females typically comprise two-thirds of population
Ecological tolerances and parameters vary widely by geographical location; populations are capable of adapting to suit various habitats
Attach byssally to available substrates, forming dense aggregations (often establishing colonies with densities > 80,000/m˛
The shell of L. fortunei often has a distinctive golden coloration
North American biofouling mussel species which are similar in shape and size to the golden mussel (Fig. 1) are
Mytilopsis leucophaeata (typically inhabits brackish water habits) (Fig. 2)
Dreissena polymorpha (typically inhabits fresh water habits) (Fig. 2)
Dreissena bugensis (typically inhabits fresh water habits) (Fig. 2)
The presence of a nacreous layer within the shell of L. fortunei (Fig. 1) distinguishes it from all bivalves in the superfamily Dreissenacea, including species in the genera Dreissena and Mytilopsis (see Morton 1973)
Geographical variations exist for reproduction, growth, and longevity. The following information pertains mainly to populations existing in South America.
External fertilization produces clam-shaped free-swimming veligers (Fig. 3)
Larval stage duration of 30-70 days
Typically remain immature for 1 year and grow to about 8 mm in length
Sexual maturity reached by 1 yr. (Fig. 4)
Gonads of both sexes begin developing in May, maturing in June, and degenerating in October
Life cycle of South American populations rarely exceeds 2-3 years; 5 and 10 years maximum, respectively, in Korea and China
Occurs at temperatures between 16 and 28 deg C (June-September)
Spawning occurs 1-2 times per year
Dioecious, gametes are discharged into the water where external fertilization occurs
Temperature appears to be a major factor in initiating gamete release
Freshwater lakes and rivers and estuaries
Attaches byssally to hard substrates
Between 8 and 32 deg C in Asia, confirmed occurrences up to 35°C
Based upon its thermal tolerances, the golden mussel appears to be capable of colonizing waters from South America to the lower North American Great Lakes Region
Intolerant of extended anaerobic conditions
Maximum growth and reproductive output occur at oxygen conditions above saturation
Requires =1.0 mg/L (Table 1)
Euryhaline freshwater species (primarily a freshwater species, capable of tolerating brackish waters and maintaining substantial populations in estuarine habitats) (Table 1)
Tolerant of polluted and contaminated water conditions
Capable of inhabiting waters with relatively low calcium and pH levels (Table 1), heated waters, and organically enriched waters subject to periodic hypoxia
China and southeastern Asia
Distribution in the Americas
Established in South America (Fig. 5)
Status of North American introduction: Predicted
Probable Means of Introduction
In ship ballast, and as a contaminant of shipments of live Asian clams
The most likely mode of introduction into North American waters is the release of larvae in discharged ballast water from:
Asian freighters visiting Pacific American ports
South American freighters visiting ports along the Gulf of Mexico
Filter feed on planktonic algae (phytoplankton) and zooplankton
High filtration rates indicate that suspension feeding may:
Reduce phytoplankton standing stocks and biomass
Suppress zooplankton populations
Outcompete native species for available food
Increase sedimentation rates
Alter contaminant and nutrient cycling
Has the potential to affect the diversity of native molluscan communities (e.g., can overgrow and possibly kill native mollusks; impacts may be similar to Dreissena)
Adhere byssally to gauges and valves causing them to malfunction
Dead mussels can accumulate on intake screens, strainers, trash racks, and cooling pipes and cause clogging
Although strainers and screens may be able to filter out mussels of adequate size, larvae pass through, settle on interior surfaces, detach, and accumulate on intake screens, strainers, trash racks, and cooling pipes causing clogging
Dead mussels have clogged small diameter pipes (e.g., water quality piping, sampling lines, cooling pipes) transmitting raw water which causes, in come situations, a complete shutdown of the plant
Grit chambers and flocculators clog heavily with sediment of broken shell and tissue material
Decaying shell and tissue material give off noxious odor
Increased operational costs (complete shutdown of plant; clogging of mussels, shell material, and sediment may need to be manually removed)
Food source for fish, particularly individuals >30 cm total length
Desiccation (see Morton 1974)
Predation by the fish, Leporinus obtusidens, may assist in decreasing the densities of golden mussel populations (see Penchaszadeh et al. 2000)
Many chemicals, including chlorine (see Morton et al. 1976), are effective in controlling larvae of the golden mussel within facilities, but are not often used due to resulting complications with their use (e.g., interference with function of nitrification in pipelines, formation of trihalomethanes)
Darrigran, G. and Ezcurra de Drago, I. 2000. Invasion of the exotic freshwater mussel Limnoperna fortunei (Dunker, 1857) (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) in South America. Nautilus 114(2):69-73.
Darrigran, G. and Pastorino, G. 1995. The recent introduction of a freshwater Asiatic bivalve, Limnoperna fortunei (Mytilidae) into South America. The Veliger 38(2):171-175.
Deaton, L. E., Derby, J. G. S., Subhedar, N., and Greenberg, M. J. 1989. Osmoregulation and salinity tolerance in two species of bivalve mollusc: Limnoperna fortunei and Mytilopsis leucophaeta. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 133:67-79.
Iwasaki, K. and Uryu, Y. 1998. Life cycle of a freshwater mytilid mussel, Limnoperna fortunei in Uji River, Kyoto. Venus the Japanese Journal of Malacology 57(2):105-113.
Magara, Y., Matsui, Y., Goto, Y., and Yuasa, A. 2001. Invasion of the non-indigenous nuisance mussel, Limnoperna fortunei, into water supply facilities in Japan. Aqua - Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology 50(3):113-124.
Morton, B. 1973. Some aspects of the biology and functional morphology of the organs of feeding and digestion of Limnoperna fortunei (Dunker) (Bivalvia: Mytilacea). Malacologia 12(2):265-281.
Morton, B. 1974. Some aspects of the biology, population dynamics and functional morphology of Musculista senhousia Benson (Bivalvia, Mytilidae). Pacific Science 28:19-33.
Morton, B. S., Au, C. S., and Lam, W. W. 1976. The efficacy of chlorine in the control of Limnoperna fortunei (Dunker 1857) (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) colonizing parts of Hong Kong’s raw water supply system. Journal of the Institution of Water Engineers and Scientists 30:147-156.
Penchaszadeh, P. E., Darrigran, G., Angulo, C., Averbuj, A, Brögger, M., Dogliotti, A., and Pírez, N. 2000. Predation of the invasive freshwater mussel Limnoperna fortunei (Dunker, 1857) (Mytilidae) by the fish Leporinus obtusidens Valenciennes, 1846 (Anostomidae) in the Rio de la Plata, Argentina. Journal of Shellfish Research 19(1):229-231.
Ricciardi, A. 1998. Global range expansion of the Asian mussel Limnoperna fortunei (Mytilidae): Another fouling threat to freshwater systems. Biofouling 13(2):97-106.
Uryu, Y., Iwasaki, K., Hinoue, M. 1996. Laboratory experiments on behaviour and movement of a freshwater mussel, Limnoperna fortunei (Dunker). Journal of Molluscan Studies 62(3):327-341.
Control and Prevention of Invasive Bivalves - Limnoperna fortunei, the "golden mussel"
Sea Grant Nonindigenous Species
This report was prepared by Danielle M. Crosier and Daniel P. Molloy (New York State Museum) with assistance from Anthony Ricciardi (McGill University) and Walter A. Boeger (Universidade Federal do Paraná - Brazil).