I wake up scheming


I won’t clam up about this scheme!

Laugh at me, if you wish to tempt my salty, invertebrate wrath, but I can promise you that if this scheme succeeds, the world will tremble before my fearsome bivalve army.  And no, I’m not just flexing my mussels.

© Gwen and James Anderson

Recent work from McGill University biologist Frédéric Guichard shows that California mussels, whose networking skills have previously been questioned because of their sedentary lifestyle, may communicate at much greater distances than previously supposed.  Guichard and colleagues have created mathematical models based on ecological data to show that when a group of mussels releases larvae, it can cause nearby populations to do the same, setting off a chain reaction of larva release that can extend all the way up the coast.  These chain reactions can result in closely-timed larval release in mussels from San Diego to Seattle, and these patterns could exist in other bivalves as well.

This could have tremendous implications for conservation efforts, which had previously focused on isolated colonies of mussels instead of considering interactions between disparate communities.  But more importantly (for me), this could have tremendous implications for my efforts to corral the bivalves of the Pacific Ocean into a fearsome army, capable of attacking coastal towns from Baja California to the Bering Strait.

After all, how much of a leap is it from one group of mussels telling a faraway group to release larvae, to a single deranged marine biologist (moi) instructing all the mussels of the West coast to simultaneously invade the land?  Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but with some finessing of the mussel signaling mechanisms, who knows what could happen?

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