They are hungry, hungry mollusks.
Thousands of historic shipwrecks sunk in America’s Great Lakes are at risk of being lost forever thanks to invasive, wood-destroying mussels.
The lakes are estimated to be home to about 6,000 shipwrecks, some of which date back to the 17th century, according to estimates from the University at Buffalo.
The Quagga mussel, native to the waters of Russia and Ukraine, is believed to have arrived in the Great Lakes in 1989, possibly as a result of ballast spills from ocean-going freighters passing through the lakes.
The Quagga mussel population has exploded in the waters of once-pristine lakes, where near-perfect visibility made shipwrecks easy to see even decades after they sank.
Now Quagga mussels have taken over, scientists say.
“What you have to understand is that all the shipwrecks are covered in quagga mussels in the lower Great Lakes,” said Wisconsin state maritime archaeologist Tamara Thomsen.
Quagga mussels now cover everything buried within the Great Lakes.AP
“Everything. If you drain the lakes, you will get a plate of quagga mussels.”
The mollusks hide in the wood of the boats and eventually become so numerous that their own weight can crush what is left of the boats.
Little remains of the boats that were victims of the mussel attack.AP
According to experts, they also produce a natural acid that can corrode the iron in shipwrecks.
There is currently no way to stop the relentless shellfish and scientists are racing to excavate as many ships as possible before they are consumed.
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