Decreased thermal tolerance under recurrent heat stress conditions explains summer mass mortality of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis

TitleDecreased thermal tolerance under recurrent heat stress conditions explains summer mass mortality of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsSeuront, L, Nicastro, KR, Zardi, GI, Goberville, E
JournalScientific Reports

Extreme events such as heat waves have increased in frequency and duration over the last decades. Under future climate scenarios, these discrete climatic events are expected to become even more recurrent and severe. Heat waves are particularly important on rocky intertidal shores, one of the most thermally variable and stressful habitats on the planet. Intertidal mussels, such as the blue mussel Mytilus edulis, are ecosystem engineers of global ecological and economic importance, that occasionally suffer mass mortalities. This study investigates the potential causes and consequences of a mass mortality event of M. edulis that occurred along the French coast of the eastern English Channel in summer 2018. We used an integrative, climatological and ecophysiological methodology based on three complementary approaches. We first showed that the observed mass mortality (representing 49 to 59% of the annual commercial value of local recreational and professional fisheries combined) occurred under relatively moderate heat wave conditions. This result indicates that M. edulis body temperature is controlled by non-climatic heat sources instead of climatic heat sources, as previously reported for intertidal gastropods. Using biomimetic loggers (i.e. ’robomussels’), we identified four periods of 5 to 6 consecutive days when M. edulis body temperatures consistently reached more than 30 °C, and occasionally more than 35 °C and even more than 40 °C. We subsequently reproduced these body temperature patterns in the laboratory to infer M. edulis thermal tolerance under conditions of repeated heat stress. We found that thermal tolerance consistently decreased with the number of successive daily exposures. These results are discussed in the context of an era of global change where heat events are expected to increase in intensity and frequency, especially in the eastern English Channel where the low frequency of commercially exploitable mussels already questions both their ecological and commercial sustainability.

Catégorie HCERES
ACL - Peer-reviewed articles
Publication coopération et recherche SUD