Preparing Green-Lipped Mussels for Live Transport by Slowing Their Metabolism

Jenn Hoskins
7th July, 2024

Preparing Green-Lipped Mussels for Live Transport by Slowing Their Metabolism

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The University of Auckland studied the effects of magnesium chloride (MgCl2) anesthesia on the metabolism of New Zealand Green-lipped mussels
  • MgCl2 anesthesia significantly altered the mussels' metabolic profile, increasing metabolites linked to anaerobic metabolism, indicating stress
  • Changes were also observed in amino acids that function as neurotransmitters and osmolytes, affecting cell volume and fluid balance
  • The study suggests that while MgCl2 relaxes mussels, it disrupts their normal metabolic processes, potentially skewing research outcomes
The University of Auckland recently conducted a study examining the effects of magnesium chloride (MgCl2) anesthesia on the metabolism of New Zealand Green-lipped mussels[1]. This research is significant as it addresses the potential metabolic consequences of a common practice in bivalve research. MgCl2 is frequently used to relax mussels during sampling, but its impact on their metabolism had not been thoroughly investigated. In the study, adult Green-lipped mussels were exposed to a MgCl2 bath for three hours, during which their haemolymph (a fluid equivalent to blood in invertebrates) was collected and analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. This technique allowed researchers to identify and quantify various metabolites—small molecules involved in metabolism. The findings revealed that MgCl2 anesthesia significantly altered the mussels' metabolic profile. Most notably, there was an increase in the abundance of metabolites linked to anaerobic metabolism, which occurs in the absence of oxygen and typically indicates stress or an energy imbalance. Additionally, there were changes in amino acids that function as neurotransmitters and osmolytes, substances that help maintain cell volume and fluid balance. These results suggest that while MgCl2 effectively relaxes the mussels, it also disrupts their normal metabolic processes. This disruption could potentially affect the accuracy of studies that rely on metabolomics, the comprehensive analysis of metabolites. Therefore, the use of MgCl2 should be carefully considered and managed to avoid skewing research outcomes. This study builds on previous research in several ways. For instance, a study on decapod crustaceans highlighted the importance of using appropriate anesthetics to ensure animal welfare and accurate scientific results[2]. The current research extends this understanding to bivalves, showing that even commonly used anesthetics like MgCl2 can have significant physiological effects. Moreover, the findings have broader implications for the aquaculture industry. The New Zealand Green-lipped mussel industry is a major player in global aquaculture, contributing significantly to exports[3]. Ensuring the health and well-being of these mussels is crucial for sustainable production. The study underscores the need for careful evaluation of anesthetic practices to maintain the integrity of both the animals and the research conducted on them. Additionally, the study's metabolomics approach offers a valuable tool for assessing the impact of various environmental and management practices on shellfish health. This is particularly relevant given the increasing interest in sustainable aquaculture practices. For example, another study examined the role of oyster aquaculture in nutrient removal and ecosystem services, highlighting the potential for shellfish farming to complement existing environmental management strategies[4]. Understanding the metabolic responses of shellfish to different practices can help optimize their use in both commercial and environmental applications. Furthermore, the study's findings contribute to the broader discussion on sustainable food production from the sea. As global food demand rises, there is a growing need to explore sustainable sources of edible meat, including seafood[5]. By ensuring that aquaculture practices do not inadvertently harm the animals or compromise research quality, we can better harness the potential of the sea to meet future food needs. In conclusion, the University of Auckland's study provides important insights into the metabolic effects of MgCl2 anesthesia on Green-lipped mussels. It highlights the need for careful management of anesthetic practices in bivalve research and aquaculture to ensure both animal welfare and the accuracy of scientific findings. This research not only advances our understanding of mussel physiology but also has broader implications for sustainable aquaculture and food production.

BiochemAnimal ScienceMarine Biology


Main Study

1) Pre-treatments to reduce metabolism in adult green-lipped mussel, Perna canaliculus, in preparation for live transportation

Published 6th July, 2024

Related Studies

2) Anaesthesia of decapod crustaceans.

3) Beyond relaxed: magnesium chloride anaesthesia alters the circulatory metabolome of a marine mollusc (Perna canaliculus).

4) Role of Shellfish Aquaculture in the Reduction of Eutrophication in an Urban Estuary.

5) The future of food from the sea.

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