Ocean acidification goes beyond damaging shells

Posted on EPOCA: 15 Mar 2013

 As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, ocean acidification continues to threaten marine life. New research from the University of Washingtonreveals that ocean acidification won’t only affect the shells of marine organisms.

Increasing acidity in the ocean makes it harder for organisms to build and maintain calcified parts. It affects many organisms like clams, mussels, and corals. This new study demonstrates that the threads that attach mussels to rocks, called byssal threads, will also weaken.


Mussels can be found on rocks, pilings and many other solid objects. They are capable of building new byssal threads throughout their lives, but as the ocean becomes more acidic, this will become more and more challenging.

The researchers found that in higher CO2 conditions, the common bay mussel (Mytilus trossulus) could be dislodged by forces 40 percent lower than mussels attached under current conditions. This is because the byssal threads become weaker and lose their ability to stretch as far.

In addition to altering ecosystems, this problem could also affect the aquaculture industry.

On the bright side, farmed mussels are listed as a ‘best choice’ option on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide! And, it doesn’t matter where they are farmed because they are filter-feeders which means they don’t require any fishmeal and can actually improve local water quality. They also rarely develop diseases that would require antibiotics. So, eat up…while you can.

To learn more:

Marine Science Today, 13 March 2013. Article.