New paper: Hydroids slow mussel growth and eat their babies

Ruinous resident: the hydroid Ectopleura crocea negatively affects suspended culture of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis
Isla Fitridge & Michael J. Keough
Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Hydroids are major biofouling organisms in global aquaculture. Colonies of the hydroid Ectopleura crocea have recently established in Australian commercial mussel leases culturing Mytilus galloprovincialis. This study examined the impacts of E. crocea on mussel culture at two stages of the production cycle: spatfall and grow-out. Hydroids most commonly fouled the body, edge and dorsal regions of the mussel shell and cause a reduction in the length (4%) and weight (23%) of juvenile mussels. They also consumed mussel larvae in the field and in the laboratory. Prey numbers of many taxa, including mussel larvae, were consistent in natural hydroid diets regardless of the temporal variation in prey availability, implying some selectivity in hydroid feeding. In the laboratory, E. crocea consumed settling plantigrade mussel larvae
more readily than trochophore or veliger larvae. Fouling by E. crocea is detrimental to mussel condition, and may affect the availability of wild mussel larvae in the commercial culture of M. galloprovincialis.

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