Shell equivalved, wedge-shaped, rather pointed at the beaks. In the hinge are three or four tooth-like crenulations. Ligament internal, or nearly so, and very strong. Colour of the shell a greyish-blue sometimes radiated with darker blue. Epidermis olivaceous.
The mussel is called in Anglo-Saxon, Muscl, Muscel, Muscule, Muscla, which names mean that which instantly retires on being touched; in Dutch, Mossel; in Danish, Muskel; in German, Muschel; in French, Moule, at Bordeaux, Charron (from the village of that name, where there is a large mussel trade); in Feroese, Kreak-lingur; in Andalusia, Longherone, and in other parts of Spain, Mocejones, Mexillones, Muscles, and Musclus. The Venetian names for it are Peschio dell' arsenate, and Pedacchio di mar, and the Neapolitan, Cozza negra, or Cozza di Tarento. Mussels are used for food in many places, and also for bait, "and on some parts of the Northumberland coast the fishermen have made mussel-gardens for the preservation of those shellfish; they are formed by piling up stones round certain places on the seashore, between tide-marks, and are carefully watched by their proprietors".*
* 'Testacea utriusque Siciliae,' 1795. † ' Queen's Messenger,' p. 341.
Mytilus edulis. Common Mussel
del__G.B. Sowerby, lith. Vincent Brooks, Imp.
M. de Quatrefages, in his interesting work, 'Rambles of a Naturalist,' gives an account of the origin and development of the mussel-trade on the French coast. "An Irishman of the name of Walton was shipwrecked on the coast in 1235, near the little village of Esnandes, in the Bay of Aiguillon, and was the only person saved out of all the crew of the ill-fated vessel. He amply repaid the services which had been rendered him; some sheep were saved from the wreck, which he crossed with the animals of the country, producing a breed of sheep which is still held in high estimation. He invented a kind of net, the 'allouret,' for catching birds which skim the surface of the water at twilight or dark, and in order to make these nets thoroughly effective, it was necessary to go to the centre of the immense bed of mud, where the birds sought their food, and to secure a number of poles to support the nets, which were between 300 and 400 yards in length. On examining these poles, Walton discovered that they were covered with mussel spawn. He then increased the number of his poles, and after various attempts he constructed his first artificial mussel-bed, or bouchot. At the level of the lowest tides he drove into the mud stakes that were strong enough to resist the force of the waves, and placed them in two rows about a yard distant from each other. This double line of poles formed an angle, whose base was directed towards the shore, and whose apex pointed to the sea. This palisade was roughly fenced in with long branches, and a narrow opening having been left at the extremity of the angle, wicker-work cases were arranged in such a manner as to stop any fishes that were being carried back by the retreating tide. It was soon found inexpedient to trust only to the chance of the currents and waves that might bring in the young mussels to the poles and fences, and men frequently went to a very great distance in search of the young mollusks, - even as far as the plateau of Chatelaillon".
* 'A Book for the Seaside,' p. 100.
M. de Quatrefages further tells us, that the little mussels that appear in the spring are called seeds; they are scarcely larger than lentils till towards the end of May, when they rapidly increase in size, and are then called renouvelains, and in July are ready for transplanting. They are detached from the bouchots which are situated at lowest tide-mark, and are then put into pockets or bags made of old nets, "which are placed upon the fences that are not quite so far advanced into the sea". The young mussels attach themselves by means of their byssus all round the pockets or bags. As they increase in size and become crowded together, they are taken out and distributed over other poles lying nearer the shore, and the fullgrown mussels, which are ready for sale, are planted on the bouchots nearest the shore. The fishermen gather enormous quantities of fresh mussels every day, and take them in carts, or on the backs of horses, "to La Rochelle, and other places, from whence they are sent as far as Tours, Limoges and Bordeaux".
It appears that the French mussel breeders have discovered that mussels which live suspended to piles, or ropes of vessels, nets, etc, attain to a larger size, than those which live on the bottom, be it sandy, rocky or muddy; they therefore suspend thick ropes to wooden piles, and the mussels adhere by their byssus to them, the ropes are then tightened a little to prevent the animals lying on the bottom.*
The fishermen of Cherbourg consider that there are two distinct varieties of the common mussel, viz., Mytilus incurvatus and Mytilus achatinus. The former is usually sold under the name of Cayeu, and is much esteemed by the consumers of mussels, the flesh being more delicate and easier of digestion; and it is also stated, that the shell of this species is never inhabited by the Pinnotheres, which is often found in the common mussel. The Cayeu is generally to be found on the rocks, where it lives rather isolated; while the common mussel is found on the muddy sand. The second variety, viz., Mytilus achatinus, is to be met with only in the neighbourhood of the "Grand-Vey," and then only at spring-tides. It is much less esteemed as food, as it is tougher than Mytilus incurvatus. It is sold at Cherbourg under the name of la Blonde, on account of its colour. †
* Phipson's 'Utilization of Minute Life,' pp. 163, 164. † ' Essaie d'un Catalogue des Mollusques, marins, terrestres et fluviatiles,' par M. J. A. MacÚ.
The British method of rearing mussels differs from that of the French. By the latter, endeavours are made to intercept the spat, as we have already seen, and by the former, the young mussels are removed from the grounds where they have been deposited, as soon as they are sufficiently large, to positions up estuaries, at some distance from the sea, where they are uncovered at low-water. They grow and fatten by the admixture of the fresh-water with the salt-water.*