Open Access

Seasonal variation in the occurrence of planktic bivalve larvae in the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea

  • Andrea Pulfrich1, 2
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen51:23


In the late 1980s, recruitment failures of the musselMytilus edulis led to economic problems in the mussel fishing and cultivation industries of northwestern Europe. As part of a collaborative study to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms affecting recruitment processes of mussels, plankton samples were collected regularly over a four-year period (1990–1993) from three stations in the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea. The bivalve component of the plankton was dominated by the Solenidae, which was almost exclusively represented byEnsis americanus (= directus). M. edulis was the second most abundant species. Abundances of mussel larvae peaked 2 to 4 weeks after spawning maxima in the adult populations. Although variations in timing and amplitude of the total larval densities occurred, annual abundances ofM. edulis larvae remained stable during the study period, and regional abundance differences were insignificant. A close relationship was found between peaks in larval abundance and phytoplankton blooms. Differences in larval concentrations in the ebb and the flow currents were insignificant. Planktic mussel larvae measured between 200 μm and 300 μm, and successive cohorts were recognizable in the majority of samples. Most larvae were found to originate from local stocks, although imports from outside the area do occur.