We evaluated the technique of measuring the exhalant siphon area (ESA) as an indicator of feeding activity in the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis. To accomplish this, we established the relationships between ESA measured using video and image analysis and clearance rate (CR) measured simultaneously in mussels exposed to various concentrations of microalgae as a food source in the laboratory. Two size classes of mussels (30 and 60 mm shell length) were fed 6 and 7 concentrations of the unicellular alga Isochrysis galbana., respectively (0, 0.6, 1.2, 1.8, 2.4, 3.0, 6.0 mg L-1). ESA and the variation in feeding activity associated with individual mussels significantly influenced CR in 60mm mussels, whereas effects of algal concentration were not significant within the range tested. Individual variation in feeding activity significantly influenced CR in 30 mm mussels. However, unlike the 60 mm mussels, ESA did not significantly influence CR, whereas algal concentration did have a significant effect in 30 mm mussels. We did observe significant relationships between ESA and CR in some groups of mussels suggesting it may be a useful indicator of feeding activity under certain circumstances. However, the high degree of variation observed in our laboratory-based experiments on the relationship between CR and ESA leads us to conclude that measurements of ESA may be better used as an estimate of general behavior trends in feeding rather than a quantitative measure of clearance rate.
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Vol. 28 • No. 2