Predator-inducible changes in blue mussels from the predator-free Baltic Sea

  • Reimer O
  • Harms-Ringdahl S
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Blue mussels, Mytilus spp., have inhabited the brackish Baltic Sea, an environment lacking predatory crabs and starfish, for several thousand years. In this paper we examined whether Baltic Mytilus that were transplanted to the North Sea showed predator-inducible plasticity like their "marine" conspecifics. Our experiments showed that native North Sea Mytilus changed their morphology when exposed to waterborne scents from shore-crabs and starfish. These predators induced different kinds of changes, with emphasis on shell thickness and adductor muscle size, respectively. Baltic Mytilus responded in a similar way to crab scents, whereas starfish scents had a relatively weak effect on the morphology. Crab and starfish scent induced strengthening of the byssal attachment in North Sea Mytilus, with crabs providing more stimulation than starfish. Baltic mussels also improved the byssal attachment when exposed to either of the predators, but the attachment strength, as well as the response to crabs, were relatively weaker than that of North Sea mussels. We conclude that inducible plasticity still is present in Baltic Mytilus, despite their recent evolution in a predator-free environment. There is probably no strong selective pressure against inducible plasticity, but it could also be maintained in the population by gene flow from Mytilus in the adjoining North Sea. The question whether Baltic Mytilus are M. edulis or M. trossulus may also be relevant for the present results.

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  • O. Reimer

  • S. Harms-Ringdahl

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