Resource allocation to a structural biomaterial: Induced production of byssal threads decreases growth of a marine mussel
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Resource allocation to a structural biomaterial: Induced production of byssal threads decreases growth of a marine mussel

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  • Journal Title:
    Functional Ecology
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    The biomechanics of specialized mechanical structures produced by organisms provides crucial fitness advantages. The energetic cost associated with producing these structural materials and the resulting energetic trade‐off with growth, however, is rarely quantified. We integrate resource allocation to structural material production with an energetic framework by combining an experimental manipulation with an energetic model. Mytilid bivalves produce byssus, a network of collagen‐like threads that tethers individuals to hard substrate. We hypothesized that a manipulation that induces the production of more byssal threads would result in increased energetic cost and decreased growth of the species Mytilus trossulus. In month‐long field experiments in spring and autumn, we severed byssal threads across a range of frequencies (never, weekly, daily), and measured shell and tissue growth. We then quantified the costs associated with the production of byssal threads using a Scope for Growth model. We found that byssal thread removal increased byssal thread production and decreased growth. The cost calculated per byssal thread was similar in the spring and autumn (~1 J/thread), but energy budget calculations differed by season, and depended on thread quantity and seasonal differences in assumptions of metabolic costs. This work demonstrates that the cost of producing a structural material has a substantial effect on mussel energetic state. The energetic cost of producing byssal threads was 2%–8% percent of the energy budget in control groups that had low byssal thread production, and increased six to 11‐fold (up to 47%) in mussels induced to produce threads daily. We propose that characterizing the trade‐off between the cost of biomaterial production and growth has implications for understanding the role of trade‐offs in adaptive evolution, and improved natural resource management and conservation practices. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.
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    Functional Ecology, 35(6), 1222-1239
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