Life-history characteristics and sexual strategy of Mytilopsis sallei (Bivalvia: Dreissenacea), introduced into Hong Kong



First recorded from Hong Kong in 1980, Mytilopsis sallei now dominates the intertidal pier community within the Government Dockyard, Victoria Harbour. Analysis of monthly samples of M. sallei has demonstrated aspects of the reproductive strategy and life-history characteristics correlated with seasonal changes in local water quality.

Mytilopsis sallei is dioecious, has a high fecundity, matures early (at 8–10 mm shell length), grows fast and the majority of the population is probably semelparous. These are characteristic traits of opportunistic r-strategists. Comparable characteristics are typical of other introduced bivalves. Maximum life span of M. sallei in the Dockyard is probably less than 20 months with, however, most of the population dying before that. Heavy recruitment, particularly during spring-summer, suffocates older individuals. The shells of dead animals similarly last for little more than one year, dissolution and crushing effecting this. A mat of byssal threads serves to bind the mass and anchor it to the substratum.

Mytilopsis sallei exhibits two periods of reproductive activity and settlement per year. These are possibly two elements of a single recruitment divided into minor (autumn-winter) and major (spring-summer) components by either high summer temperatures or low salinities. Summer and winter recruits of M. sallei, respectively, mature to produce the summer and winter juveniles of the following year. Over-stepping generations plus survival of a few individuals into their second year thus ensure continued success of M. sallei, and account for its spread and dominance in its introduced range. Such a bimodal pattern appears typical of many Hong Kong intertidal, estuarine and freshwater bivalves.