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Phylum Mollusca > Class Bivalvia
Sea mussels
Family Mytilidae
updated May 2020
if you learn only 3 things about them ...
Some species of mussels can bore into concrete.
Some tiny mussels live in a colony of thousands.
Mussels can cause food poisoning.

Where seen? Mussels are common on many of our shores and mangroves, stuck to rocks, tree roots and other hard surfaces. Some create 'nests' out on the sand or mudflats.

What are sea mussels? Sea mussels belong to the Family Mytilidae.

Features: The two-part shell is generally tear-drop shaped (rounded at one end and pointed at the other). Although thin, the shell is quite strong. Instead of gluing down one valve to a rock like oysters do, mussels attach themselves with byssus threads.

Sea mussels are often found in colonies of a large number of individuals. Nest mussels are tiny mussels about 1cm long that live in colonies of thousands. They weave a nest out of byssus threads and mud. Date mussels (Lithophaga sp.) create a safe hiding place for themselves by drilling into dead coral and even concrete by rotating their shells and secreting an acid.

Green mussels growing on a large boulder.
Changi, Jan 04

Nest mussels can form vast mats
Chek Jawa, Aug 07

Tiny Green mussels
growing among tinier Nest mussels.
Pulau Sekudu, Jul 07
What do they eat? Like most other bivalves, sea mussels are filter feeders. At high tide, they open their shells a little. They then generate a current of water through the shell and sieve out the food particles with enlarged gills. When the tide goes out, they clamp up their shells tightly to prevent water loss.

Human uses: Sea mussels are among the favourite seafood of people everywhere. The Green mussel (Perna viridis) is farmed in many parts of Southeast Asia. In colder seas, they are among key food sources. Like other filter-feeding clams, however, sea mussels may be affected by red tide and other harmful algal blooms when they are then harmful to eat.

Status and threats: None of our sea mussels are listed among the threatened animals of Singapore. However, like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Trampling by careless visitors and overcollection can also affect local populations.

Some Sea mussels on Singapore shores



Family Mytilidae recorded for Singapore
from Tan Siong Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary Checklist of The Molluscs of Singapore.
^from WORMS

  Family Mytilidae
  Arcuatula arcuatula

Botula cinnamomea

Brachidontes striatulus

Lithophaga gracilis=^Lithophaga teres
Lithophaga lima=^Leiosolenus lima
Lithophaga malaccana
Lithophaga nasuta
Lithophaga obesa
Lithophaga teres

sp. (Horse mussels)
Modiolus albicostus
Modiolus aratus=^Jolya arata
Modiolus auriculatus=^Arcuatula arcuatula
Modiolus elongatus
Modiolus ligneus=^Lioberus ligneus
Modiolus metcalfei=^Modiolus modulaides
Modiolus micropterus
Modiolus nitidus
Modiolus philippinarum
Modiolus proclivis=^Modiolus rumphii
Modiolus trailii

^Arcuatula senhousia=Musculista senhousia
(Nest mussel)

Musculus cumingianus
Musculus panhai

Perna viridis
(Green mussel)

Septifer bilocularis
Septifer excisus

Trichomya hirsuta

sp. (Little black mussel)
cf. atratus

Links References
  • Tan Siong Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary Checklist of The Molluscs of Singapore (pdf), Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore.
  • Tan, K. S. & L. M. Chou, 2000. A Guide to the Common Seashells of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Abbott, R. Tucker, 1991. Seashells of South East Asia. Graham Brash, Singapore. 145 pp.
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