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Prevalence, patterns, and effects of shell damage on Geukensia demissa in South Carolina estuarine habitats
Hillard, R.; Walters, K. (2009). Prevalence, patterns, and effects of shell damage on Geukensia demissa in South Carolina estuarine habitats. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 156(10): 2149-2460.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Hillard, R.
  • Walters, K.

    Shelled molluscs frequently exhibit a record of damage on exterior surfaces that can evidence past predation attempts and may affect survival and growth. In South Carolina populations of the ribbed marsh mussel, Geukensia demissa, >90% of the individuals and up to 60% of the total shell area are damaged. A trend toward greater amounts of damage occurred on mid-marsh compared to oyster reef mussels from the barrier beach side of inlets. Shell damage effects on survivorship and shell and tissue growth were assessed seasonally during multi- and single-season field experiments. Mussels from a common mid-marsh site were divided into size classes (~50 or 70 mm), treated to create two damage levels (undamaged and damaged), and replaced within mid-marsh exclusion cages to minimize additional shell damage. In both multi- and single-season experiments increased shell damage resulted in significantly greater mortality. Linear shell growth was unaffected by increased damage, but 50 mm mussels grew twice as fast. Shell mass increased 16–50% in the multi-season and single-season winter period, but decreased 7–12% during the single-season summer period. Tissue mass significantly decreased 31–43% in 50 mm damaged mussels, but increased by 33% for 70 mm mussels in both multi-season and the single-season winter period experiments. Shell damage did reduce tissue mass 43% in 70 mm single-season summer mussels. Experimental results indicate shell damage from a simulated increase in predation can affect negatively both survival and growth of marsh mussels. Seasonal timing of shell damage and initial mussel size also influenced the effects of sublethal predation on shell and tissue growth. The previously unrecognized importance of sublethal predation and the resultant significant negative effects of shell damage on survival and growth will affect the distribution and population dynamics of G. demissa in coastal marshes and will influence the overall contribution of ribbed mussels to estuarine ecosystems.

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