It is all in the looks: a rapid field-based visual assessment tool for evaluating the spawning likelihood of the Asian green mussel, Perna viridis (Linnaeus, 1758).
Numerous interceptions of Perna viridis on vessels entering Western Australian waters prompted the development of a rapid field-based assessment technique for determining reproductive status and hence spawning likelihood of P. viridis. The visual assessment tool and spawning likelihood matrix were developed using correlations between laboratory-based assessments of P. viridis size, colour and egg size in combination with field-based validations from mussels collected on vessels in Western Australian waters. The spawning likelihood matrix provides an immediate indicator of whether the mussel is low, medium or high likelihood of spawning. Mussels were recorded initiating gonad tissue development from approximately 6.5 mm in length, with the mean size of mature animals 59.6 mm. There was a positive correlation between mussel size and stage of reproductive development. Gonad colour, however, appeared to be a more accurate indicator of gonad maturity than mussel size. Female mussels showed a decrease in gonad colour intensity following spawning. Mussels that scored 1 for colour (potential score 1-3) generally had a low proportion of mature eggs (<70% mature eggs). Over 60% of the mussels with a colour score of 2 contained 70-100% mature eggs, indicating the capacity for further spawning. Mussels were assigned an overall spawning likelihood score (through the spawning likelihood matrix) based on the proportion of the visceral mass occupied by gonad tissues (% gonad cover, value from 1-3) and overall colour of gonads (value from 1-3). The spawning likelihood score was significantly related to the percentage of mature eggs present, and hence the spawning potential of the mussel. The matrix provides an immediate indicator of the risk of spawning posed by the sample. As such, it is expected that application of the matrix in situ would enable the potential likelihood posed by P. viridis translocated on vessels to be determined quickly and efficiently.