Functional response and size-selective clearance of suspended matter by an invasive mussel.
Filter feeding activities link suspension feeders with their environment and underpin their impact on aquatic ecosystems. Despite their ecological and economic impacts, the functional response and size-selective capture of suspended particulates have not been well documented for the golden mussel Limnoperna fortunei. Here we demonstrated that golden mussels had a type I functional response, with an attack rate a=0.085 and negligible handling time (h). Clearance rate ranged between 72.6±27.0 and 305.5±105.9 mL ind.-1h-1 (Mean±S.E.), depending on food concentrations, which exhibited an inverse relationship with clearance rate. Presence of golden mussels suppressed chlorophyll a concentration in experimental mesocosms, the extent of which was dependent on mussel abundance. Concentration of suspended particles in experimental mesocosms experienced a sharp initial decline across all size categories (≤1->50 µm), though with increased final concentration of large particles (>25 µm), indicating packaging and egestion by golden mussels of fine particles (down to ≤1 µm). Capture efficiency of quantitatively-dominant suspended matter (≤1-50 µm) by golden mussels was inversely related to particle size. Animal abundance, particle size, and their interaction (abundance × particle size) determined the extent to which matter was removed from the water column. Presently L. fortunei occurs primarily in the southern end of the central route of South to North Water Diversion Project (China), but the species is spreading north; we anticipate that impacts associated with filtering of L. fortunei will correspond with local population abundance along this gradient.