, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 341-347

Group living and the effects of spatial position in aggregations of Mytilus edulis

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Summary

The mussel Mytilus edulis typically occurs in aggregations and several consequences of living in groups were studied. Isolated individuals and individuals associated in relatively small groups (6–9 mussles/group) grew more and therefore had greater reproductive output than mussels associated with relatively large groups of 21–28 individuals. Mussels located in the centers of groups exhibited reduced growth and thus lower reproduction relative to mussels located on the edges of groups whose growth and reproduction was similar to that of isolated individuals. Sampling from natural populations indicated that most mussels grow within the matrix of very large groups and hence will experience reduced growth and reproduction. Patterns of growth exhibited by mussels in association with living and model mussels showed that the adverse effects on growth exhibited by mussels in relatively large groups are not a function of the mere physical relief of a mussel clump, but are caused by some property of living neighbors.

Laboratory experiments on mussel predation by the crab Pachygrapsus crassipes indicated that crabs prey disproportionately on mussels growing on the edges of groups.

The consequences of group living in mobile and nonmobile organisms are considered, and it is suggested that a greater number of negative effects will arise in groups as mobility decreases. In addition, the noted ecological similarity between groups of sessile organisms and spreading clones and its evolutionary implications are discussed.

This is contribution no 171 from the Smithsonian Marine Station at Link Port