Hydrodynamic stress and habitat partitioning between indigenous (Perna perna) and invasive (Mytilus galloprovincialis) mussels: constraints of an evolutionary strategy
The ability of a mussel to withstand wave-generated hydrodynamic stress depends mainly on its byssal attachment strength. This study investigated causes and consequences of different attachment strengths of the two dominant mussels species on the South African south coast, the invasive Mytilus galloprovincialis and the indigenous Perna perna, which dominate the upper and the lower areas of the lower balanoid zone, respectively and co-exist in the middle area. Attachment strength of P. perna was significantly higher than that of M. galloprovincialis. Likewise solitary mussels were more strongly attached than mussels living within mussel beds (bed mussels), and in both cases this can be explained by more and thicker byssal threads. Having a wider shell, M. galloprovincialis is also subjected to higher hydrodynamic loads than P. perna. Attachment strength of both species increased from higher to lower shore, in response to a gradient of stronger wave action. The morphological features of the invasive species and its higher mortality rates during winter storms help to explain the exclusion of M. galloprovincialis from the low shore. The results are discussed in the context of the evolutionary strategy of the alien mussel, which directs most of its energy to fast growth and high reproductive output, apparently at the cost of reduced attachment strength. This raises the prediction that its invasive impact will be more pronounced at sites subject to strong but not extreme wave action.
KeywordsShell Length Hydrodynamic Force Perna Mussel Species Byssal Thread
This research was funded by Rhodes University and the National Research Foundation of South Africa.
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