Shell deformity as a marker for retrospective detection of a pathogenic unicellular alga, Coccomyxa sp., in mytilid mussels: A first case study and research agenda.


Harquail School of Earth Sciences, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


An L-shaped shell deformity (LSSD) on the posterior shell edge is known exclusively in wild mytilid mussels infected with photosynthetic Coccomyxa-like algae. LSSD forms due to the appearance of extra shell material; it only occurs if the mussel is heavily infected with the alga. Traditionally, observation of high amount of the green spots (algal colonies) on a large area of host soft tissues (most of the mantle and in adductor muscle) has been used to indicate a high infection rate. We examined 300 Mytilus spp. (100 small, 20-30 mm; 200 large, 40-60 mm) with a high degree of LSSD (parameter "d" > 5 mm) from the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary (Québec, Canada). Green spots were absent in two large mussels, and were only present along the mantle posterior edge in 14 large mussels; other individuals had high infection levels. Our observations suggest that some individuals could be in a state of remission, or, even more optimistically - mussels may be able to resist the pathogen. LSSD is the stable through-time marker for detection of mytilid mussels that are or were infected with Coccomyxa algae, and, thus, may provide information for the study of mussel immunity and control of alga distribution/migration in coastal waters worldwide.


Biomarker,Blue mussels,Coccomyxa sp.,Mytilus edulis,Pathogen,Shell deformity,

OUR Recent Articles