Validated methodology for quantifying infestation levels of dreissenid mussels in environmental DNA (eDNA) samples

The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha Pallas, 1771) and the quagga mussel (D. rostriformis Deshayes, 1838) are successful invasive bivalves with substantial ecological and economic impacts in freshwater systems once they become established. Since their eradication is extremely difficult, their detection at an early stage is crucial to prevent spread. In this study, we optimized and validated a qPCR detection method based on the histone H2B gene to quantify combined infestation levels of zebra and quagga mussels in environmental DNA samples. Our results show specific dreissenid DNA present in filtered water samples for which microscopic diagnostic identification for larvae failed. Monitoring a large number of locations for invasive dreissenid species based on a highly specific environmental DNA qPCR assay may prove to be an essential tool for management and control plans focused on prevention of establishment of dreissenid mussels in new locations ​
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