Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area
United Kingdom: SCT
The Noss Head NCMPA (Nature Conservation MPA) off the coast at Wick in the north of Scotland supports the largest known horse mussel bed in Scottish waters at depths of between 35-45m.
Horse mussels resemble the perhaps more familiar blue mussels of the seashore, but are much larger at 10-20 cm long. The shell is very thick and dark blue to black in colour, with a glossy brown covering. In Gaelic, horse mussels are called „clabaidh-dubha‟ („clabbydoos‟), meaning big black mouths! This describes perfectly how they appear on the seabed, the gaping shells lined with pale lips of the living mussel surrounding the deep, dark mouth.
Horse mussels are long-lived, many survive for more than 25 years and some may live for more than 50 years. The mussels‟ large shells provide a solid foundation for many other animals, including soft corals, tubeworms, barnacles, sea firs, and sea mats. Between the live shells, and inside dead ones, brittlestars, crabs, worms, molluscs and many other small animals find shelter which attracts young fish to feed. Young mussels are a favourite meal for crabs and starfish, but once the mussels grow to more than 6 cm long, they are relatively safe from these predators.