Deja vu? A second mytilid mussel, Semimytilus algosus, invades South Africa's west coast

11 June 2014

A second marine mussel is shown to have invaded South Africa’s west coast. Molecular techniques, based on intraspecific gene sequence divergences, prove its identity as Semimytilus algosus, a member of the family Mytilidae, native to Chile. The identity of an older introduced population found in Namibia is also confirmed. The present geographic range of S. algosus in South Africa extends some 500 km, from Groenriviersmond in the north to Bloubergstrand in the south. Together with Mytilus galloprovincialis, another previously established invasive mussel, S. algosus has become a dominant intertidal organism on wave-exposed rocky shores across this region. Both species are now much more abundant intertidally than either of the indigenous mussels Aulacomya ater and Choromytilus meridionalis, which have become largely confined to sublittoral and sand-inundated habitats respectively. The two invasive mussels display strong spatial segregation, with M. galloprovincialis dominating the midshore and S. algosus blanketing the lower shore. Through a combination of its small size and high abundance, S. algosus is likely to greatly increase food availability for a range of intertidal predators, many of which cannot consume mussels above a threshold size.