Mussels, often hailed as superfoods due to their richness in vitamin B12 and omega-3, are proving to be resilient against marine heat waves, according to recent research. In a study published in Marine Biology, scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of South Australia conducted experiments on both large and small mussels, subjecting them to three weeks of warm ocean temperatures.
Surprisingly, the mussels demonstrated remarkable adaptability to the heat wave. Their heart rates and clearance rates increased during the elevated temperatures but returned to normal within a week after the heat wave ended. This resilience bodes well for their survival in the face of more frequent and severe marine heat waves predicted in the future.
Mussels are vital to marine ecosystems, as they help recycle nutrients and improve water quality by filtering large volumes of water while feeding. They are also an excellent source of protein for humans, containing high levels of iron, B-12, and omega-3.
Dr. Laura Falkenberg, an environmental lecturer at UniSA, highlighted the scarcity of studies on organisms’ capacity to recover from marine heat waves and the factors influencing this recovery. The research focused on Asian green mussels (Perna viridis) abundant in the Indo Pacific region, which is expected to experience increased marine heat waves.
In the experiment, mussels from Hong Kong’s Tolo Harbor were subjected to rising temperatures for three weeks before being monitored during a recovery period. Notably, the mussels’ ability to adjust their cardiac activity, including heart rate and clearance rate, may play a crucial role in maintaining their circulatory system, which impacts feeding, growth, and reproduction.
Additionally, their increased clearance rates under elevated temperatures could benefit coastal systems by controlling algal and plankton blooms during marine heat waves.
Source: University of South Australia