WHAT IS A MUSSEL?
These bivalve mollusks are in appearance the ugly cousin to the more pristine clam. Different families can thrive in fresh or salt water environments (unlike the clam). In general their shells have a more oval, darker and asymmetrical appearance. The mussel is a filter feeder, attaching itself to any aquatic substrate and siphoning nearby water for tiny organisms. Clumping together in large masses helps to protect the mussels from being swept away by waves. It also allows those closer to the center to stay more hydrated then / by their surrounding brethren. Mussels have life spans of over 100 years and like with trees, the rings on the outer shell indicate their age.
WHERE DO MUSSELS COME FROM?
One of the oldest organisms around, it’s very difficult to date their origin. This is in part due to how rapidly mussels evolve vs. other organisms. While other creatures might need thousands of years to evolve a defense against a new predator, mussels can do it in 15.
WHEN ARE MUSSELS IN SEASON?
Late fall into early spring are considered the peak season for this delicacy.
HOW ARE MUSSELS AND SPIDERS SIMILAR?
Both mussels and spiders generate silky threads that they then use to attach to nearby objects (about 2 inches / 6 cm away). Known as byssus threads, they have a combination of stiff and flexible properties that are ideally engineered for survival in an ocean environment.
ARE MUSSELS ONE OF THE DIRTY DOZEN? (MERCURY)
Mussels easily absorb any toxins that are in the water of their local environment. Whether it be industrial chemicals or red tide algae, the source of your meal is crucially important. Having said that, these bivalves are at the bottom of the food chain and so have a low risk in terms of mercury consumption.