When it comes to mussels, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Tiny fibers called byssals enable mussels—the shellfish kind—to anchor themselves to coastlines despite crashing ocean waves.
But new research shows that the attachment fibers weaken in warm water. A temperature rise of 15 degrees Fahrenheit lessens fiber strength by 60 percent, possibly causing them to fail completely. As climate change raises ocean temperatures, mussels may be forced to cooler waters.
Emily Carrington of the University of Washington presented the research at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston:
"Researchers have dissected mussel beds and found, I think, upwards of 100 different species. So if the mussels go it really changes that community.
"We also eat mussels and so there’s applications in aquaculture. The way they grow mussels, is the mussels have to remain attached to the ropes on their long lines. So if the mussels fall off before the farmers return to reap their harvest, then they’ve lost a lot of money."
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]