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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Common Mussel Mytilus edulis

Also called the blue mussel, the common mussel is an edible, black-shelled bivalve that attaches itself in large numbers to various substrates using tough fibers called byssal threads. These fibers are extremely strong—five times tougher than a human tendon—and prevent the mussels from being washed away. When the common mussel opens its shell, water is drawn in over the gills, or ctenidia, which absorb oxygen into the tissues and also filter food particles out of the water.

Common mussels are very efficient filter feeders—they process about 10–18 gallons (45–70 liters) of water per day and consume almost everything they trap. The sexes are separate and so grouping together in “beds” helps to ensure that their eggs are fertilized. After hatching, the planktonic larvae are dispersed by the ocean currents. After about three months, they settle and mature further before moving once again to join the adult common mussel population.

Common Musselzoom image
  • Class Bivalvia
  • Length 4–6 in (10–15 cm)
  • Habitat Intertidal zones, coasts, estuaries
  • Distribution North and southeastern Atlantic, northeastern and southwestern Pacific
Common Mussel habitat mapzoom image