Too much food may cause reduced growth of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) – Test of hypothesis and new ‘high Chl a BEG-model’

Poul S. Larsen*, Florian Lüskow, Hans Ulrik Riisgård

*Corresponding author for this work

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Growth of the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) is closely related to the biomass of phytoplankton (expressed as concentration of chlorophyll a, Chl a), but the effect of too much food in eutrophicated areas has so far been overlooked. The hypothesis addressed in the present study suggests that high Chl a concentrations (> about 8 μg Chl a l−1) result in reduced growth because mussels are not evolutionarily adapted to utilize such high phytoplankton concentrations and to physiologically regulate the amount of ingested food in such a way that the growth rate remains high and constant. We first make a comparison of literature values for actually measured weight-specific growth rates (μ, % d−1) of small (20 to 25 mm) M. edulis, either grown in controlled laboratory experiments or in net bags in Danish waters, as a function of Chl a. A linear increase up to about μ = 8.3% d−1 at 8.1 μg Chl a l−1 fits the “standard BEG-model” after which a marked decrease takes place, and this supports the hypothesis. A “high Chl a BEG-model”, applicable to newly settled post-metamorphic and small juvenile (non-spawning) mussels in eutrophicated Danish and other temperate waters, is developed and tested, and new data from a case study in which the growth of mussels in net bags was measured along a Chl a gradient are presented. Finally, we discuss the phenomenon of reduced growth of mussels in eutrophicated areas versus a possible impact of low salinity. It is concluded that it is difficult to separate the effect of salinity from the effect of Chl a, but the present study shows that too much food may cause reduced growth of mussels in eutrophicated marine areas regardless of high or moderate salinity above about 10 psu.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
Pages (from-to)299-306
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Bioenergetic growth model
  • Chlorophyll a
  • Salinity
  • Weight-specific growth
  • Eutrophication
  • Danish waters


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