Variability of the reproductive cycle in estuarine and coastal populations of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis Lmk. from the SE Bay of Biscay (Basque Country)

Document Type : Original Article


1 AZTI-Marine Research, Herrera Kaia, Portualdea z/g, 20110, Pasaia, Spain

2 Plentzia Marine Station (PiE), University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Areatza z/g, 48620, Plentzia, Basque Country, Spain



Mussel commercial production depends on wild populations to obtain the seed. Therefore, any new farming initiative needs deep knowledge on reproductive cycle of native mussel populations. The reproductive cycle of Mytilus galloprovincialis Lmk. from five sites, three estuarine and two coastal, along the coast of the Basque Country were assessed using gonad index and stereology over 2 consecutive years (2010 and 2011). Sex ratios, developmental stages of gonads , as well as reserve tissue cycle were analyzed. The onset of gametogenesis was observed from winter to spring, with spawning occurring from spring till summer. A resting phase followed with an increase in reserve tissues (adipogranular cells) was observed in fall. Mussels stayed ripe during winter until favorable environmental conditions were met in spring. Differences in reproductive cycles were found among populations, and also, year-to-year variability was observed within each population. In two of the studied sites asynchrony in the timing of spawning was observed between genders. These timing differences, however, did not prevent mussels at those sites from reproducing successfully. The Bidasoa estuary points to the potential of such studied sites for becoming the main source of wild mussel spats for future expected commercial mussel farming in the Basque Country. To ensure year-to-year maximum reproductive output, however, wild mussels harvest should be avoided from spring to the end of summer in this region.