Microcystins are produced by bloom-forming cyanobacteria and pose significant health and ecological problems. In this study we show that zebra mussels respond differently to different strains of Microcystis aeruginosa, and that a highly toxic strain causes zebra mussels to produce large quantities of mucous pseudofaeces, 'pseudodiarrhoea', that are periodically expelled hydraulically through the pedal gape by shell valve adductions rather than by the normal ciliary tracts. Analysis of the pseudofaecal ejecta showed that the proportion of Microcystis aeruginosa relative to Asterionella formosa was high in the pseudofaeces and even higher in the 'pseudodiarrhoea' when a mixed diet was given to the mussels. This confirms that very toxic Microcystis aeruginosa were preferentially being rejected by comparison with the non-toxic diatom in the pseudofaeces and even more so in the 'pseudodiarrhoea'. Such selective rejection was not observed with low or non-toxic strains and would therefore tend to enhance the presence of toxic Microcystis aeruginosa in mixed Microcystis aeruginosa cyanobacterial blooms, as well as transferring toxins from the water column to the benthos. The observed acute irritant response to the toxin represents the first demonstration of an adverse sublethal effect of microcystins on invertebrate ecophysiology. Our results also suggest that it could be a specific response to microcystin-LF, a little studied toxin variant.