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Cannibalism popular with mussels

Cannibalism popular with mussels

Scoop Image - Digital effects Lyndon Hood

Cannibalism, thought to be relatively rare in the animal kingdom, has been found to be prevalent among the green-lipped mussel.

AUT University marine ecology and aquaculture senior lecturer Dr Andrea Alfaro’s paper exploring mussel cannibalism was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

Dr Alfaro collected adult mussels from three intertidal mussel beds along the Far North’s Ninety Mile Beach between August 2000 and March 2001 and analysed their gut contents.

She found they ate mussel larvae, as well as juveniles and small adults up to 2.4mm long. During August 70% of the plankton population the adults feed on was composed of larvae and juveniles and this increased to 99% in March.

"The high rate of cannibalism during some months of the year suggests this source of food may significantly contribute to their overall energy budget," says Dr Alfaro.

“In fact, the large numbers of larvae that mussels produce may not go to waste, but may serve as nutritious food for older adults.”

Dr Alfaro is the only scientist to have studied the Ninety Mile Beach mussel population and has published numerous papers on the New Zealand green-lipped mussel.

For more information about AUT’s applied sciences faculty, or to read the paper in full, visit http://www.aut.ac.nz/schools/applied_sciences/links.htm

ENDS

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