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Mediterranean mussel in Australia? Sure thing ant it’s not good

Posted December 4, 2019

Mytilus galloprovincialis is identified as one of the ‘100 World’s Worst Invasive Species’ and that is not a nice title to have. It is an invasive species in a huge part of the world and now scientists from the University of Queensland say that they established themselves along the coastline of Australia as well. Why that is going to be a problem?

Mediterranean mussel are great at travelling by hitching a ride under big commercial ships. Image credit: Chris.urs-o via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Mytilus galloprovincialis, better known as Mediterranean mussel, is found in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, which, as you can guess from the name, is normal. However, what is not normal is that Mediterranean mussels spread across the globe like wildfire and is not an invasive species in a huge part of the world. Some of it was with the help of humans – Europeans introduced Mytilus galloprovincialis to southern Africa back in 1984 and it is now a dominant species along African West Coast.

But it get weirder. Mytilus galloprovincialis can be easily found in Japan, North Korea and Eastern Russia. They are cultivated in US, but they are also living in South America. And, of course, Mediterranean mussel found its way to New Zealand and Australia as well.

Scientists found that there is a huge Mediterranean mussel population along the coasts of Australia, but they are not all the same. Mytilus galloprovincialis from the actual Mediterranean sea is a bit different genetically from Atlantic examples. And scientists found both of them on Australian coats. How did they get there?

Well, Mediterranean mussels are extremely good hitchhikers. They cling on the bottom of commercial ships and travel this way across the globe. This is the primary way how they spread so widely. And, although they can be used for food, these news are not great for Australian wildlife.

Cynthia Riginos, one of the authors of the study, said: “As long as Mytilus galloprovincialis and hybrid mussels don’t impact other native species, then a new enhanced tolerance to warm conditions might safeguard mussels in their ecological roles and future-proof Australian mussel farming. But right now we really cannot determine whether or not Mytilus galloprovincialis is a threat to Australia’s marine biodiversity”.

And so, scientists are starting to research the impact of this invasive species on the local wildlife. They want to be able to predict what is going to happen over longer period of time, because Mediterranean mussels are not going anywhere. Of course, a way to reduce their population will be harvesting, but if they spread even more, they may start changing local biodiversity.


Source: University of Queensland

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