Effects of artificial epibionts on byssogenesis, attachment strength, and movement in two size classes of the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis


Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) can alter the strength of byssal attachment and move between and within mussel aggregations on wave-swept shores, but this movement ability may be limited by epibiont fouling. We quantified the effects of artificial epibiont fouling on the production of byssal threads, attachment strength, and movement in two size classes of blue mussels. In a factorial experiment, large epibiont-covered mussels produced more functional byssal threads (i.e., those continuous from animal to substrate) after 24 h than large unfouled and small fouled mussels, but not more than small unfouled mussels. Small unfouled mussels formed and released more byssus bundles compared to any other treatment group, which indicates increased movement. Conversely, epibiont fouling resulted in decreased numbers of byssus bundles shed, and therefore reduced movement in small mussels. Epibiont-covered mussels started producing byssal threads sooner than unfouled mussels, while small mussels began producing byssal threads earlier compared to large mussels. Mean attachment strength from both size classes increased by 9.5% when mussels were artificially fouled, and large mussels had a 34% stronger attachment compared to small mussels. On the other hand, a 2.3% decrease in attachment strength was found with increasing byssus bundles shed. Our results suggest that fouling by artificial epibionts influences byssal thread production and attachment strength in large mussels, whereas epibionts on small mussels impact their ability to move. Mussels are able to respond rapidly to fouling, which carries implications for the dynamics of mussel beds in their intertidal and subtidal habitats, especially in relation to movement of mussels within and among aggregations.

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Invertebrate Biology



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© 2016, The American Microscopical Society, Inc.