Mussel Mania!

Friday, May 11, 2012, second entry – After the exciting time with the pinnipeds at Simpson’s Reef, Florida Tech Biological Oceanography students headed to Mussel Point for our fourth rocky intertidal field trip.

The journey to Mussel Point was different from our other hikes, passing through thick pine temperate rain forest to the access point on the cliff.  From there, a rope led down a dirt stair path.

This cliffside path gave at least one student a bit of vertigo, but we all made it down (and back up – see above) safe and happy. The Florida Tech Biological Oceanography students soon discovered that the really special thing about Mussel Point is that the rocky intertidal here is a horizontal flat geological formation almost the size of a football field.

Because the platform is horizontal, and happens to fall at the tide level that determines the zone of the California mussel, the entire shelf is carpeted wall-to-wall with the blue mussels (Mytilus californianus). Mytilus at this level is hands-down the dominant competitor and easily edges out would-be competition for space on the rock.

However, at the same time, the mussels create a low canopy of space which houses diverse organisms.

The assignment for today is for Florida Tech Biological Oceanography students to collect 10×10 cm plots of mussels and return to the lab in order to identify and count that which lives within the mussels.

In the protected recesses behind Mussel Point is a small, but amazing beach made entirely of shells, mostly of mussels.  We picked through these for a few mementos of the trip.

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