Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

University Of Rhode Island Professor Investigates The Muscle Behind Blue Mussels

Date:
May 28, 2001
Source:
University Of Rhode Island
Summary:
If hanging on to a rock in the intertidal zone while waves come and go isn’t enough, the blue mussel faces the threat of being ripped off its rocky perch by violent storms or hurricanes. And now comes global warming, which is making the world windier and the waves stronger. The mollusk will either have to get stronger by producing more threads or fall off and die.

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 27, 2001 -- The blue mussel clings to life by a thread. Make that about 80 byssal threads in the winter and 30 or so threads in the summer, but you get the idea that life for these hard-shelled mollusks is quite dramatic.

Related Articles


If hanging on to a rock in the intertidal zone while waves come and go isn’t enough, the blue mussel faces the threat of being ripped off its rocky perch by violent storms or hurricanes.And now comes global warming, which is making the world windier and the waves stronger. The mollusk will either have to get stronger by producing more threads or fall off and die.

Will the blue mussel whose species is dominant throughout the world maintain enough muscle – actually extra cellular fibers -- to remain steadfast or simply go with the flow?

That in a seashell is something University of Rhode Island assistant professor Emily Carrington of Wakefield, an expert on the blue mussel and its marine community, is trying to determine.

Funded by a three-year, $320,000 National Science Foundation grant, Carrington’s overall research goal is to determine the ability of mussels to adjust their attachment strength to prevailing wave conditions so that she can predict when mussels may be dislodged based on changes in wave activity.

Since 1998, the URI biologist in the College of Arts and Sciences has monitored blue mussels living at the edge of Narragansett Bay, measuring their size and strength each month.

Back in her URI lab, Carrington uses a materials testing machine, commonly used by engineers to test materials such as concrete, to measure the strength and elasticity of the mussels’ threads. She is also examining the force required to crush its shell.

Just how far can the threads stretch? "The threads are nature’s little bungy chords," says Carrington, noting that the threads are stronger than most rubber materials and can stretch up to twice their length before breaking. That function is important because as tethers, only the threads that are in tension can bear the load of a crashing wave. Threads with excess slack are useless. The ability of the threads to stretch allows additional threads to be recruited to hold on.

An adult mussel is about 2 inches long. (The threads are about half the length of the shell). The mussel’s small size is perfect for the challenges it faces. Consider the force of a large breaking wave. Translated into wind speed, it’s like a person standing on the wing of an airplane going 600 m.p.h. and trying to hang on. Obviously, humans wouldn’t fare very well on wave-swept rocky coasts, but the diminutive mussel, resembling a rivet on the airplane wing, is quite able to keep its composure. "There are no intertidal redwoods," comments Carrington.

The mussel is twice as strong in the winter as in the summer. In fact, its holding power is weakest in September making them vulnerable to hurricanes. "It appears that the blue mussel responds well to the predictable, but doesn’t fare well with the unpredictable," says the URI professor.

The reason for its weakness may be that the mussel is on the ropes at the end of the summer. The mussel uses nearly all its energy and resources trying to reproduce during the spring and summer. It isn’t easy. Their offspring are hardly conceived in a conventional fashion. Both male and female mussel continually secrete eggs and sperm (called gamete) hoping the two will meet in the water column and become one larva. The larva spends about six weeks in the water before making its way back to shore to seek a rock, metamorphose, and cling.

"The ocean is a rich soup of plankton," says Carrington. "Being a filter feeder, the blue mussel sucks in the water and may actually help clean the ocean."

Carrington believes that the mussel is everything it’s cracked up to be. "My research will help us understand how stable mussel populations are in the face of increasing storms so that it can continue to keep the water clean and be enjoyed by diners."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Rhode Island. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Rhode Island. "University Of Rhode Island Professor Investigates The Muscle Behind Blue Mussels." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010524062421.htm>.
University Of Rhode Island. (2001, May 28). University Of Rhode Island Professor Investigates The Muscle Behind Blue Mussels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010524062421.htm
University Of Rhode Island. "University Of Rhode Island Professor Investigates The Muscle Behind Blue Mussels." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010524062421.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deadly Japanese Pufferfish Discovered in Crimean Waters

Deadly Japanese Pufferfish Discovered in Crimean Waters

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) The capture of deadly Japanese pufferfish in the waters of Crimea is causing concern for fishermen and scientists alike. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying Black Seadevil Fish Captured on First-of-Its Kind Video

Terrifying Black Seadevil Fish Captured on First-of-Its Kind Video

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) An aquarium captures a first-of-its kind video of a notoriously camera-shy fish that’s also not so camera-friendly. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins