Mussels (including green-lipped mussels) are filter feeders – they process large volumes of the water they live in to obtain food. Filter feeding is a method of eating that is used by diverse organisms, including bivalve molluscs, baleen whales, many fish and even flamingos. In this video, Professor Andrew Jeffs (Leigh Marine Laboratory) explains how green-lipped mussels trap phytoplankton (their major food source) on their gills before ingesting it.
Point of interest:
Listen out for Andrew’s description of how much seawater an adult mussel can process in a day.
Professor Andrew Jeffs (Leigh Marine Laboratory)
Mussels are filter feeders, which means they are like a small living pump. They draw in water from one side and they pump it out the other side, but in between they’ve got a massive rack of filters. And those filters work as gills, so they’re extracting oxygen out of the water but they’re also extracting food. So those gills are like my fingers – strips – and they suck the water, pump the water through, and any large particles get stuck on the gaps, and really what they’re really after is the floating plant material called the phytoplankton because that’s the stuff that’s got lots of goodies in it.
Mussels need to filter a huge volume of water in order to get enough food to eat. So they’re filtering through those tiny plants, and they have to get millions of those plants in order to get a meal. So a typical mussel will filter about a whole bathtub of water in a day to get enough to eat. So you imagine a mussel farm – it’s actually filtering a huge volume of water every day in order to gather enough food to feed those mussels.
Professor Andrew Jeffs, Oliver Trottier – Leigh Marine Laboratory, Auckland University.
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.