• Delayed Fluorescence;
  • Lake Erken;
  • phytoplankton dynamics;
  • selective feeding;
  • Zebra mussel


1. To investigate the impact of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) on phytoplankton community composition, temporal variability in selective feeding by the mussels was determined from April to November 2005 in a natural lake using Delayed Fluorescence (DF) excitation spectroscopy.

2. Selective grazing by zebra mussels varied in relation to seasonal phytoplankton dynamics; mussels showed a consistent preference for cryptophytes and avoidance of chlorophytes and cyanobacteria. Diatoms, chrysophytes and dinoflagellates responded differentially to zebra mussel grazing depending on their size. Analysis of excreted products of the zebra mussels revealed that in addition to chlorophytes and cyanobacteria, phytoplankton >50 μm and very small phytoplankton (≤7 μm) were largely expelled in pseudofaeces.

3. The zebra mussel is a selective filter-feeder that alters its feeding behaviour in relation to phytoplankton composition to capture and ingest high quality phytoplankton, especially when phytoplankton occur in preferred size ranges. Flexibility of zebra mussel feeding behaviour and variation in susceptibility among phytoplankton groups to mussel ingestion indicate that invading zebra mussels could alter phytoplankton community composition of lakes and have important ecosystem consequences.