1. Shell growth in the freshwater pearl mussel, Margaritifera margaritifera
, was investigated. Three non-linear growth models (i.e. power, logistic an
d von Bertalanffy) were fitted to Scottish length-at-age data sets and comp
2. Overall, the von Bertalanffy model outperformed the other two approaches
, generating the smallest residuals in eight out of 11 samples (the logisti
c model provided slightly better fits to the other three). It was concluded
that individual M. margaritifera appear to grow in an approximately asympt
otic fashion and that the von Bertalanffy equation is an appropriate growth
model to fit to freshwater pearl mussel length-at-age data.
3. The ranges in von Bertalanffy parameter estimates observed (k = 0.023-0.
075 year(-1), L-infinity = 77-158 mm, t(o) = -3.93-4.33 years) are typical
of those reported in northern European populations.
4. Most of the populations investigated had relatively low k-values and hig
h maximum age (A(max)) estimates. This feature, which suggests high long-te
rm productivity and less vulnerability to decline (i.e. larger, longer-livi
ng mussels produce more offspring), may be a reason why these populations h
ave survived until now. The population which appears to be the most vulnera
ble (i.e. which has the highest k and lowest A(max)) is probably not recrui
ting adequately at present.
5. An index of absolute growth (mean shell length-at-age) was also used for
comparing different populations. Observed between- and within-river differ
ences in mussel growth patterns may be associated with a number of environm
ental factors, particularly water temperature and productivity.
6. A significant positive relationship between river length and mean mussel
length-at-age was observed. In general, mussels grow large in large, cold
rivers and vice versa, although there are exceptions which suggest that add
itional factors may be involved.