Byssus thread strength in the mussel, Mytilus edulis

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Abstract

Mytilus edulis attaches to the substratum by means of a proteinaceous byssus complex. This consists of three portions: a root, embedded in the pedal tissues, a stem, continuous with the root but external to the body and a number of byssus threads attached proximally to the stem and distally to the substratum via adhesive discs. Byssus strength varies seasonally on the shore, in response to changes in wave action (Price, in press). As a decline in byssal attachment strength implies a decline in strength of the constituent threads, a study was undertaken to establish the extent to which byssus thread strength is determined by age. The ultimate tensile stress, ultimate tensile strain and Young's Modulus were measured in threads of known age and length and a stepped regression performed on the results. It was found that age and length correlate significantly with tensile stress and Young's Modulus. Length is a less important influence than age on tensile stress but has a greater effect than age on Young's Modulus. Tensile strain is independent of both length and age.

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