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Adaptations of California Mussels

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California mussels (Mytilus californianus) are a species of bivalve mollusks. True to their common monikers, they are frequently seen in waters off California, although they also live as far north as Alaska. California mussels typically set up residence in rugged coastal locales. A handful of different creatures prey on these mussels, including ochre stars, crabs, lobsters and shorebirds.

California Mussels Basics

The dense, sizable shells of California mussels are blackish-blue in coloration on the outside. On the interior, they're grayish-blue, often with a subtle luminous look. The actual creatures are light orange. Mature California mussels can grow to lengths upward of 5 inches. California mussels develop pretty swiftly. During the initial 12 months of their lives, they sometimes grow to as long as 3.4 inches. It takes them approximately three years to achieve physical maturity, however. Food-wise, California mussels sustain themselves on meals of both plankton and organic matter.

Adaptation for Acquiring Food

California mussels are equipped with a handy feeding adaptation that enables them to rapidly gather adequate amounts of sustenance. They're capable of straining between two and three quarts of water per hour. They consume their preferred foods by first filtering out all the H20 that accompanies them.

Protection Adaptation

California mussels are common fixtures in tidepools. They're frequently seen in locations that allow them to employ their sturdy byssal threads, which they emit as liquids via their byssal glands. These threads allow California mussels to firmly plant their bodies over stones. When the liquids make contact with water from the sea, they immediately become harder and "thread-like." Mussels sometimes protect themselves using these threads, tying down predators to keep them restrained and prevent them from eating -- therefore leading to fatalities. It isn't uncommon for vast numbers of California mussels to drive other organisms away -- a result of insufficient room.

Hazardous Potential

People have long histories as enthusiastic consumers of California mussels, making them predators to the invertebrates. These mussels have been served as meals for humans over several millennia, starting with the Native Americans. People dine on mussels in numerous manners, both cooked and raw. Although many might find these mollusks to be scrumptious, they have extremely perilous potential, too. In the summertime, poisonous plankton camps out in their tissues, making California mussels highly unsafe to eat.