Q:

What do mussels eat?

A:

Quick Answer

Mussels are filter feeders that filter microscopic aquatic life, such as plankton, from the water around them. The larvae of some mussel species are temporarily parasitic.

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Full Answer

Mussels are bivalves, like clams and oysters, that live in both saltwater and freshwater habitats. A mussel feeds by filtering water through the body. Water enters through the incurrent syphon organ and moves through the body via the motion of cilia. Wastewater exits the mussel's body through the excurrent syphon. Food filters out of the water, and labial palps pass it to the mussel's mouth. A mussel's food typically consists of phytoplankton, zooplankton and algae.

The larvae of certain freshwater mussels spend a portion of their lives as a sort of parasite, living on the gills of a host fish. This does not typically harm a fish unless the larval load is extremely high.

Mussels are important indicators of the health of a waterway. Mussels also keep waterways clean of excess plankton and algae and may even filter out some harmful bacteria.

Zebra mussels are a mussel species native to eastern Europe that is invasive in many North American waterways. Like other mussels, zebra mussels are filter feeders. They inhabit waterways in numbers so great that their populations are capable of filtering the entire contents of some lakes and ponds in a single day, robbing native aquatic species of sustenance.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How can you distinguish a mussel from a clam?

    A:

    Clams are wider and shorter than mussels, often with a "leg" protruding from the shell, while mussels appear dark blue or green, are long and teardrop-shaped and live in clusters attached to a hard surface such as a rock. Both mussels and clams fall under the scientific class Bivalvia.

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  • Q:

    What are some common types of shellfish?

    A:

    Some common types of shellfish are pacific salmon, crab, scallops, mussels, shrimp and lobster. All of these varieties of shellfish live in saltwater, such as the ocean.

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  • Q:

    What are examples of molluscs?

    A:

    Cuttlefish, squid, snails and scallops are molluscs, as are clams, sea hares, nudibranchs, mussels, oysters and limpets. As of 2015, there are roughly 100,000 existing mollusc species, which makes them the second-largest phylum of animals, following arthropods.

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  • Q:

    What eats plankton?

    A:

    Numerous organisms in the sea consume plankton, including all baleen whales like blue whales and bowhead whales, fish like whale sharks and other filter-feeders. Plankton have long been attributed as the foundation of the ocean food web, and can be separated into two distinct and different groups: phytoplankton and zooplankton. Both have contributed immensely to the ecosystem by harvesting energy through photosynthesis and converting it into essential nutrients.

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