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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 29 November 2007

How do scientists know which mussel is which? And why is this so important?


Nick King (Cawthron Institute) We do the tagging and marking here and the reason we do it is we grow these little mussels as part of the programme and then when we put them out in the wild, we want to be able to know where they came from. So we have a whole lot of different families, and each family is the offspring of one male and female mussel and we need to be able to track which family the mussels have come from.

So when they get up to about 20 mm, something around that size, we have to have some way of identifying them. We have been using little plastic tags up till now. We did some work with Queen Charlotte College and looked at plastic tags compared to engraving, and we found that engraving was going to work a lot better. So now we have tried a full-scale run of engraved mussels and they have all been out in the field for a few months. And we’ve got another batch we’re ready to start doing. We just engrave them here and we’ll probably get, possibly some university students in or people for just a week or two, and engrave ten to twenty thousand mussels.