Experimental study of transgenerational effects, pH and predation risk on byssus production in a swiftly spreading invasive fouling Asian mussel, Musculista senhousia (Benson).
Marine biofouling by the highly invasive Asian date mussel, Musculista senhousia (Benson), has caused devastating ecological and economic consequences in most coastal seas. Acute and short-term exposure experiments have demonstrated the susceptibility of mussel byssus - a holdfast structure by which mussels strongly adhere to underwater substrates, to pH. Yet, the influence of long-term exposures, especially across multiple generations, is largely unknown. Here, we evaluated transgenerational effects of pH on byssal threads secreted by M. senhousia, and compared byssus performance in absence versus presence of predators. If no predation occurred, neither pH nor transgenerational exposure significantly affected the number, length and diameter of byssal threads. Under predation risk, mussels, even exposed to low pH, significantly enhanced byssus production. In particular, individuals originating from parents grown under low conditions produced significantly more, longer and stronger byssal threads compared with those spawn from parents exposed to high pH, demonstrating positive transgenerational effects which can confer mussel byssus resilience at low pH. Given the energetically expensive nature of byssus production, these observations can be in line with previously documented plasticity of energy metabolism arose following transgenerational exposure to low pH, which allows mussels to allocate more energy to fulfill the synthesis and secretion of byssal proteins. Our findings demonstrate the remarkable ability of highly invasive fouling mussel species to respond plastically and adapt behaviorally to low pH and hence provide important implications for linking marine biofouling, biological invasion, and coastal acidification.