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Quantitative studies on gonad cycle, fecundity, reproductive output and recruitment in a baltic Mytilus edulis population

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Since Mytilus edulis L. is a biomass dominant in the Baltic much interest is focused on the ecology of the species. In this paper an attempt is made to quantitatively cover the reproductive cycle of a Baltic M. edulis population in order to provide data for energy flow models and to discuss aspects of recruitment in this species. Histological preparations of gonads showed that gametogenesis started with declining temperatures in autumn and proceeded very slowly through winter. At the beginning of March when food was supplied during the spring phytoplankton bloom, rapid maturation took place. This was also revealed by an increase in meat weight of the mussels. Only one spawning period was recorded, from the middle of May until the beginning of June, due to food being strongly limited to the population during the rest of the year. The length of the larval period was estimated as being 5 to 6 wk and settlement was registered from the end of June through July. In general the large annual variations found in the Baltic with regard to temperature and food abundance give rise to a more marked annual pattern in the reproductive cycle than is encountered in other seas. Fecundity was assessed for two populations from 4-and 15-m depths from studies covering two annual cycles of the changes in the relation of shell length — meat weight. The size-related fecundity was found to be equal in both populations and related to food abundance and not to growth or age. Fecundity, expressed as weight loss at spawning, ranged from 0% in 2-mm mussels and increased from 38 to 52% in 10-to 30-mm mussels. The fecundity as percentage of biomass in full-grown Baltic M. edulis is of similar magnitude as in full-grown mussels from other areas despite the smaller size of Baltic mussels. The reproductive output for the total 160 km2 research area was calculated as being 1 200 tons dry weight or 80% of the standing stock, which, due to the particular features of the Baltic M. edulis population probably represents the larger part of the total mussel production. This reproductive output, calculated as 8·107 eggs·m-2 and corresponding to 50% of the total annual zooplankton production, may thus consitute an important food source for herring larvae and carnivorous zooplankton. Recruitment was divided into two phases: (1) Recruitment of juveniles (=settlement of larvae), and (2) recruitment to breeding stock. Monitoring studies of settlement on ropes and the year round presence of high abundances of mussels <2 mm indicate that settlement is in excess of the demands for maintaining population size and that most settled mussels form a pool of competitively suppressed non-growing individuals. Not until death of an already established mussel will these become recruited to the breeding population. Thus recruitment is possible throughout the year which stabilizes the population and maintains it near the carrying capacity of the area with regard to food and space availability.

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Communicated by O. Kinne, Hamburg

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Kautsky, N. Quantitative studies on gonad cycle, fecundity, reproductive output and recruitment in a baltic Mytilus edulis population. Mar. Biol. 68, 143–160 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00397601

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  • Phytoplankton
  • Reproductive Output
  • Reproductive Cycle
  • Meat Weight
  • Mytilus Edulis