Biological Invasions

, Volume 20, Issue 9, pp 2461–2484 | Cite as

Dispersal mechanisms for zebra mussels: population genetics supports clustered invasions over spread from hub lakes in Minnesota

  • Sophie Mallez
  • Michael McCartney
Original Paper


Invasion genetic studies show great promise for inferring sources, pathways and vectors of spread, but have to date focused on introductions from native ranges at continental scales and larger. Here we present genetic analyses of post-introduction (i.e. secondary) spread of zebra mussels at the scale of a US state, Minnesota (MN). We genotyped 9 microsatellite DNA loci in 2047 zebra mussels collected from 40 lakes and 4 rivers that geographically and chronologically span the MN invasion. We analyzed genetic variation, geographic differentiation, and genetic clustering of populations across water bodies, and performed invasion-scenario contrasts using Approximate Bayesian Computation. Our population genetic analyses revealed that the pattern of spread of zebra mussels to inland lakes did not conform to the hub-lake model that is often proposed for this species. Consistent with a stratified dispersal model, lake rich regions were colonized from afar, followed by spread within regions by short-distance dispersal, but high-traffic hub lakes made no contribution. For the first time, we obtained evidence about the pattern of spread of zebra mussels to inland lakes that is not based on inference from analysis of boater movements; rather it derives from direct evaluation of genetic attributes of invasive populations. Local introductions overwhelmed more distant ones in three independently invaded regions, suggesting a need to understand the lake colonization process and identify the vectors responsible.


Microsatellite Approximate Bayesian computation Dreissena polymorpha Genetic diversity Genetic structure Aquatic species Short-distance spread Stratified dispersal 



We would like to thank Sarah Peterson, Grace Van Susteren and Melody Truong for technical assistance. Dan Swanson and Rich Rezanka (MN DNR), and Byron Karns and Michelle Prosser (US National Park Service) provided field support and assisted us with collecting adult zebra mussel samples. We acknowledge the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) at the University of Minnesota for providing computational resources that contributed to the research results reported within this paper (URL: This work was funded by a grant from the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Clean Water Fund (Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment), and by private donations from the Pelican Lakes Association (Crow Wing County, MN) and the Gull Lake Association (Cass County, MN).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 872 kb)
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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC)University of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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