Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen

, Volume 44, Issue 3–4, pp 335–352

Mussel beds — amensalism or amelioration for intertidal fauna?

  • Sabine Dittmann


The faunal assemblages of a mussel bed (Mytilus edulis L.) and ambient sandflat were compared to study how a bioherm of suspension feeding organisms affects benthic communities in a tidal flat. During a survey of mussel beds in the Wadden Sea at the island of Sylt (North Sea), a total of 52 macrofaunal species and 44 meiobenthic plathelminth species were detected. They occupied different microhabitats in the mussel bed. 56% of the macrofauna species were dwelling in the sediment beneath the mussels and 42% were epibenthic or epiphytic. The latter were restricted in their occurrence to the mussel bed. Along a transect from the sandflat to the mussel bed the mean species densities of macrofauna did not differ significantly, while abundances were significantly lower in the mussel bed than in the sandflat. The composition of the assemblages shifted from a dominance of Polychaeta in the sandflat to Oligochaeta in the mussel bed. Surface filter-feeding polychaetes of the sandflat (Tharyx marioni) were displaced by deposit feeding polychaetes under the mussel cover (Capitella capitata, Heteromastus filiformis). The total meiobenthic density was lower and single taxa (Ostracoda, Plathelminthes, Nematoda) were significantly less abundant in the mud of the mussel bed. The plathelminth assemblage was dominated by grazing species (Archaphanostoma agile), and differed in community structure from a sandflat aseemblage. An amensalistic relationship was found between the suspension-feeding mussels and suspension-feeding infauna, while deposit-feeders were enhanced. The presence of epibenthic microhabitats results in a variety of trophic groups co-occurring in a mussel bed. This is hypothesized as trophic group amelioration and described as an attribute of heterotrophic reefs.

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Copyright information

© Biologische Anstalt Helgoland 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabine Dittmann
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.II. Zoologisches Institut der Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Biologische Anstalt HelgolandList/SyltGermany
  3. 3.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia

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