Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 79, Issue 3, pp 557–571 | Cite as

Feeding and nutrient excretion of the New Zealand freshwater mussel Echyridella menziesii (Hyriidae, Unionida): implications for nearshore nutrient budgets in lakes and reservoirs

  • Hélène Cyr
  • Kevin J. Collier
  • Susan J. Clearwater
  • Brendan J. Hicks
  • Simon D. Stewart
Research Article


Native freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionoida) can represent a large portion of benthic biomass, but their functional role is still poorly understood. We sampled Echyridella menziesii (Hyriidae) in six lakes from two regions of the North Island of New Zealand to develop general allometric relationships for predicting filtration, excretion and biodeposition rates. Experimental containers were set up in the field (no-flow conditions) to measure filtration and biodeposition using natural phytoplankton communities, and excretion in filtered lake water. Filtration rates were 0.02–1.3 L mussel−1 h−1 and increased with increasing mussel size (R2 = 0.13, P = 0.023). Stable isotope analysis suggests that mussels also assimilate food from non-planktonic origins. Nitrogen excretion rates were 4–50 μg N mussel−1 h−1 and increased with mussel size (R2 = 0.70, P < 0.0001), with no difference between regions (ANCOVA, P > 0.3). In contrast, phosphorus excretion rates did not vary with mussel size, and were much lower in Rotorua than Waikato lakes (2 vs 5 μg P mussel−1 h−1). The reason for this regional difference is unclear, but suggests that mussels could contribute different N:P ratios to nearshore nutrient budgets in different types of lakes. Biodeposits represented 50–70% of the N, and 25–70% of the P recycled. Echyridella filters and excretes nutrients at rates similar to those measured in North American and European mussels (Unionidae, Margaritiferidae). Mussels could be important contributors of nutrients in areas where they are abundant, and their inclusion into nutrient budget models could improve the predictions of nearshore nutrient fluxes in lakes and reservoirs.


Hyriidae Lake Filtration rate Nutrient excretion N:P ratio Ecological stoichiometry 



We thank J. Garrett-Walker who provided field and laboratory assistance throughout the project, and J. Butterworth and M. Lehman for their help with field work. We also thank M. Pingram, C. McBride and D. Klee for use of unpublished stable isotope baseline data. Mussels were collected under MPI Special Collection permit 560 (Client No. 8770024). We thank the Te Arawa Lake Trust, Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Korokī Kahukura who granted permission to sample these lakes. The study was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) programmes “Enhancing the Health and Resilience of New Zealand Lakes (UOWX1503) and “Maintenance and Rehabilitation of Aquatic Ecosystems (C01×1002)”, and by the Waikato Regional Council.

Supplementary material

27_2016_517_MOESM1_ESM.doc (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 18 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Environmental Research InstituteUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  3. 3.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric ResearchHamiltonNew Zealand

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