Modiolus modiolus

Physico-Chemical Events

Biological Events


This section is aimed principally at that part of the range of biotopes containing Modiolus modiolus where the horse mussels build up substantial mounds or bioherms, although some aspects may be applicable to biotopes with lower densities of Modiolus..

Physico-Chemical Events

Spawning and recruitment may well be affected by physico-chemical changes, for example due to resulting affects on feeding conditions (phytoplankton levels), but we have found no detailed information regarding specific sensitivity on this subject, other than basic information already given in chapter III.

Biological Events

Food limitation

It has often been established that the concentrations of suspension feeders in Mytilus beds can deplete the seston available in the benthic boundary layer downstream of them. Wildish & Kristmanson (1984, 1985) measured this effect in flumes with Modiolus as well. Thus food limitation of growth might be a problem in years with poor phytoplankton production. Further considerations in this respect might include the effects of Ophiothrix fragilis, which often occurs in very dense beds in the same areas as Modiolus. Given that Ophiothrix are extremely efficient filter feeders, and that this species is prone to large fluctuations in population, it might be speculated that long-term smothering by Ophiothrix beds could occur, leading to an inability of the Modiolus to feed. George & Warwick (1985) suggested that this was the reason behind very low recruitment and growth of Sabellaria spinulosa in the Bristol Channel in 1976.


Predation of young Modiolus by crabs and starfish in particular appears to be important, and it is known that at least intertidally predation by Asterias particularly can be devastating to Mytilus beds. Factors affecting the proportion of young Modiolus surviving through to the size at which predation appears no longer to be a serious threat have not been studied, although in comparison with Mytilus reefs, which are composed of much younger animals, the effect of one or two ‘bad years’ of recruitment would be far less serious. It is suspected that juveniles living within the mass of adult byssus threads have greatly enhanced survival, in which case infaunal Modiolus could be at a disadvantage since the byssus may be largely inaccessible.

Parasites and diseases

We have no knowledge of this subject regarding Modiolus, although it is known that the boring sponge Cliona celata can badly damage the shells of old Modiolus (Comely, 1978).

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