Definitions

mussel

mussel

[muhs-uhl]
mussel, edible freshwater or marine bivalve mollusk. Mussels are able to move slowly by means of the muscular foot. They feed and breathe by filtering water through extensible tubes called siphons; a large mussel filters 10 gal (38 liters) of water per day. The close-fitting shells protect the mussel from desiccation and enable it to live high up on the shore. Most marine mussels belong to the single family, Mytilidae. They are widespread and are especially abundant in cooler seas. They form extensive, crowded beds, anchoring themselves by the byssus, a secretion of strong threads. The blue mussel grows up to 3 in. (7.6 cm) and is common along the Atlantic coast; the smaller hooked mussel has a more southerly range. The horse mussel, found in deeper waters, grows to 6 in. (15 cm) in length. Freshwater mussels are chiefly of two kinds: the large, dark-shelled burrowing mussels, a source of pearls and of mother-of-pearl; and the tiny "fingernail clams" found on the bottoms of clear pools and brooks. The zebra mussel, Dreissen polymorpha, is a small freshwater mussel native to Europe that was introduced in the 1980s into the Great Lakes. Lacking natural predators, it has proliferated and spread, clogging intake pipes at water and power facilities and disrupting native ecosystems. The quagga mussel, Dreissena rostriformis bugensis, also native to Europe, was first found in the Great Lakes in 1989 and has largely supplanted the zebra mussel there. Quagga populations are also found in the Colorado River basin and in aqueducts, canals, and reservoirs connected to the river. Freshwater mussels (family Unionidae), sometimes called clams, pass through a parasitic larval state, living on the fins, gills, and bodies of fishes. The familiar jingle shells, delicate, shiny orange or yellow shells common on beaches, belong to the same order as the marine mussel. Mussels are classified in the phylum Mollusca, class Pelecypoda or Bivalvia, order Filibranchia.

Atlantic ribbed mussels (Modiolus demissus)

Any of numerous bivalve species of either the marine family Mytilidae, found worldwide, or the freshwater superfamily Unionacea, called naiads, found mostly in the U.S. and Southeast Asia. Marine mussels are usually wedge-shaped or pear-shaped and 2–6 in. (5–15 cm) long. They may be smooth or ribbed and often have a hairy covering. The shells of many species are dark blue or greenish brown on the outside and pearly on the inside. Mussels attach themselves to solid objects or to one another, often forming dense clusters. Some burrow into soft mud or wood. They are eaten by birds and starfishes, and some species are raised commercially for food.

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The common name mussel is used for members of several different families of clams or bivalve molluscs, from both saltwater and freshwater habitats. The one thing that these different groups have in common, is that they have a shell whose outline is somewhat elongated and asymmetrical compared with that of many other edible clams, the shells of which are often more or less rounded or oval in shape.

The word "mussel" is most frequently used to mean edible bivalves of the marine family Mytilidae, most of which live on exposed shores in the intertidal zone, attached by means of strong byssal threads ("beard") to a firm substrate. A few species (in the genus Bathymodiolus) have colonized hydrothermal vents associated with deep ocean ridges.

In most marine mussels the shell is longer than it is wide, being wedge-shaped or asymmetrical. The external color of the shell is often dark blue, blackish, or brown, while the interior is silvery and somewhat nacreous.

The word "mussel" is also used for many freshwater bivalves, including the freshwater pearl mussels. Freshwater mussel species inhabit lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, canals, and similar habitats. These bivalves belong to several allied families, the largest family being the Unionidae. They are not closely related to saltwater mussels; they are taxonomically grouped in a different subclass, despite some very superficial similarities in appearance.

The freshwater Zebra mussels and their relatives in the family Dreissenidae are not related to either of the previously mentioned groups, even though they resemble many Mytilus species in shape, and live attached to rocks and other hard surfaces in a similar manner, using a byssus. They are classified with the Heterodonta, the taxonomic group which includes most of the bivalves commonly referred to as "clams".

External and internal anatomy of the common blue mussel

The mussel's external shell is composed of two hinged halves or "valves". The valves are joined together on the outside by a ligament, and are closed when necessary by strong internal muscles. Mussel shells carry out a variety of functions, including support for soft tissues, protection from predators and protection against desiccation.

The shell is made of three layers. In the pearly mussels there is an inner iridescent layer of nacre (mother-of-pearl) composed of calcium carbonate, which is continuously secreted by the mantle; the prismatic layer, a middle layer of chalky white crystals of calcium carbonate in a protein matrix; and the periostracum, an outer pigmented layer resembling a skin. The periostracum is composed of a protein called conchin, and its function is to protect the prismatic layer from abrasion and dissolution by acids (especially important in freshwater forms where the decay of leaf materials produces acids).

Like most bivalves, mussels have a large organ called a foot. In freshwater mussels, the foot is large, muscular, and generally hatchet-shaped. It is used to pull the animal through the substrate (typically sand, gravel, or silt) in which it lies partially buried. It does this by repeatedly advancing the foot through the substrate, expanding the end so it serves as an anchor, and then pulling the rest of the animal with its shell forward. It also serves as a fleshy anchor when the animal is stationary.

In marine mussels, the foot is smaller, tongue-like in shape, with a groove on the ventral surface which is continuous with the byssus pit. In this pit, a viscous secretion is exuded, entering the groove and hardening gradually upon contact with sea water. This forms an extremely tough byssus thread that secures the mussel to its substrate. The byssus thread is also used by mussels as a defensive measure to tether predatory molluscs, such as dog whelks, that invade mussel beds, immobilising and starving them to death.

Life habits

Feeding

Both marine and freshwater mussels are filter feeders; they feed on plankton and other microscopic sea creatures which are free-floating in seawater. A mussel draws water in through its incurrent siphon. The water is then brought into the branchial chamber by the actions of the cilia located on the gills for cilliary-mucus feeding. The wastewater exits through the excurrent siphon. The labial palps finally funnel the food into the mouth, where digestion begins.

Marine mussels are usually found clumping together on wave-washed rocks, each attached to the rock by its byssus. The clumping habit helps hold the mussels firm against the force of the waves. At low tide mussels in the middle of a clump will undergo less water loss because of water capture by the other mussels.

Reproduction

Both marine and freshwater mussels are gonochoristic, with separate male and female individuals. In marine mussels, fertilization occurs outside the body, with a larval stage that drifts for three weeks to six months, before settling on a hard surface as a young mussel. There, it is capable of moving slowly by means of attaching and detaching byssal threads to attain a better life position.

Freshwater mussels also reproduce sexually. Sperm released by the male directly into the water enters the female via the incurrent siphon. After fertilization, the eggs develop into the larval stage called glochidia. The glochidia grow in the gills of the female where they are constantly flushed with oxygen-rich water. For a time, these glochidia are parasitic on fish, attaching themselves to the fish's fins or gills. Glochidia are generally species-specific, and will only live if they find the correct fish host. Once the larval mussels attach to the fish, the fish body reacts to cover them with cells forming a cyst, where the glochidia remain for two to five weeks (depending on temperature). They grow, break free from the host, and drop to the bottom of the water. If they land in a suitable location, they will continue development and begin an independent life.

Reproduction in the Dreissenidae (zebra mussels and their relatives) is similar to marine mussels.

Predators

Marine mussels are eaten by humans, seastars, seabirds, and by numerous different species of predatory marine gastropods in the family Muricidae, such as the dog whelk, Nucella lapillus.

Freshwater mussels are eaten by otters, racoons, some ducks, and geese.

Distribution and habitat

Marine mussels are abundant in the low and mid intertidal zone in temperate seas globally.

Other species of marine mussel live in tropical intertidal areas, but not in the same huge numbers as in temperate zones.

Certain species of marine mussels prefer salt marshes or quiet bays, while others thrive in pounding surf, completely covering wave-washed rocks. Some species have colonized abyssal depths near hydrothermal vents.

Freshwater mussels inhabit permanent lakes, rivers, canals and streams throughout the world except in the polar regions. They require a constant source of cool, clean water, with bottoms that are not muddy. They prefer water with a substantial mineral content, using calcium carbonate to build their shells.

Aquaculture

In 2005, China accounted for 40 per cent of the global mussel catch according to a FAO study. Within Europe, Spain remained the industry leader.

Freshwater mussels are used as host animals for the cultivation of freshwater pearls. Some species of marine mussel, including the Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis) and the New Zealand green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus), are also cultivated as a source of food.

There are a variety of techniques for growing mussels.

  • Intertidal growth technique, or bouchot technique: pilings, known in French as bouchots, are planted at sea; ropes, on which the mussels grow, are tied in a spiral on the pilings; some mesh netting prevents the mussels from falling away. This method needs an extended tidal zone.
  • Mussels are cultivated extensively in New Zealand, where the most common method is to attach mussels to ropes which are hung from a rope back-bone supported by large plastic floats. The most common species cultivated in New Zealand is the New Zealand green-lipped mussel.

Mussels as food

There is archaeological evidence that humans have utilised mussels as a source of food for thousands of years. Nowadays marine mussels remain a popular seafood, especially in Belgium and the Netherlands, and France (called moules marinières), where they are consumed with french fries ("mosselen met friet" or "moules frites"). In France, the Éclade des Moules is a mussel bake popular along the beaches of the Bay of Biscay. In Italy, they are popular, often mixed with other sea food, or eaten with pasta. In Turkey, mussels are either covered with flour and fried on shishs ('midye tava'), or filled with rice and served cold ('midye dolma') and are usually consumed with alcohol (mostly with raki or beer). In Cantonese cuisine, mussels are cooked in a broth of garlic and fermented black bean. In New Zealand, they are commonly served in a chili based vinaigrette. During the Second World War in the United States, mussels were commonly served in diners. This was due to the unavailability of red meat related to wartime rationing. They are popular in Ireland and among the Irish Community in the West of Scotland; boiled and seasoned with vinegar, with the "bray" or boiling water as a supplementary hot drink.

In India mussels are popular in Kerala, Bhatkal, and Goa. They are either prepared with drumsticks, breadfruit or other vegetables, or filled with rice and coconut paste with spices and served hot. Mussels can be smoked, boiled, steamed or fried in batter.

As with all shellfish, mussels should be checked to make sure they are still alive just before they are cooked; they quickly become toxic after they die. A simple criterion is that live mussels, when in the air, will shut tightly when disturbed. Open, unresponsive mussels are dead, and must be discarded. Closed mussel shells that are unusually heavy should be discarded as well, because they usually contain only mud. They can be tested so see if they are full of mud or sand by slightly moving the two shells away from each other.

A thorough rinse in water and removal of "the beard" is suggested. Mussel shells will open by themselves when cooked, revealing the cooked soft parts. (Any unopened shells should be discarded.)

In Belgium, mussels are often served with fresh herbs and flavorful vegetables in a stock of butter and white wine. Frites/Frieten and Belgian beer are popular accompaniments. Months with an "R" in their name (September to April) are said to be the "in" season for mussels.

In the Netherlands, mussels are sometimes served fried in batter or breadcrumbs, particularly at take-out food outlets or other informal settings.

Although mussels are valued as food, mussel poisoning due to toxic planktonic organisms can be a danger along some coastlines. For instance, mussels should be avoided along the west coast of the United States during the warmer months. This poisoning is usually due to a bloom of dinoflagellates (red tides), which contain toxins. The dinoflagellates and their toxin are harmless to mussels, even when concentrated by the mussel's filter feeding, but if the mussels are consumed by humans, the concentrated toxins cause serious illness, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning. Usually the U.S. government monitors the levels of toxins throughout the year at fishing sites. See Red Tide.

Freshwater mussels nowadays are generally considered to be unpalatable, though the native peoples in North America utilized them extensively.

Nutrition highlights

Mussel: Calories: 69 Protein: 20g Carbohydrate: 6.3g Total Fat: 3.8g Fiber: 0.0g

  • Excellent source of: Selenium (76mcg), and Vitamin B12 (20mcg)
  • Good source of: Zinc (2.3mg), and Folate (64mcg)
  • Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

Mussels are not a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Reference http://www.truestarhealth.com/Notes/1839009.html

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