BIOTIC Species Information for Macoma balthica
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Researched byLizzie Tyler Data supplied byUniversity of Sheffield
Refereed byThis information is not refereed.
Taxonomy
Scientific nameMacoma balthica Common nameBaltic tellin
MCS CodeW2029 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumMollusca Subphylum
Superclass ClassPelecypoda
Subclass OrderVeneroida
Suborder FamilyTellinidae
GenusMacoma Speciesbalthica
Subspecies   

Additional Information
Taxonomy References Hayward et al., 1996, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Fish & Fish, 1996,
General Biology
Growth formBivalved
Feeding methodPassive suspension feeder
Active suspension feeder
Surface deposit feeder
Sub-surface deposit feeder
Mobility/MovementCrawler
Burrower
Environmental positionInfaunal
Typical food typesDiatoms, deposited plankton, suspended phytoplankton & detritus. HabitBurrow dwelling
Bioturbator FlexibilityNone (< 10 degrees)
FragilityIntermediate SizeSmall(1-2cm)
HeightInsufficient information Growth Rate3 mm/year
Adult dispersal potential100-1000m DependencyIndependent
SociabilitySolitary
Toxic/Poisonous?No
General Biology Additional InformationAbundance
Stephen (1929) reported typical abundances of Macoma balthica from the Firth of Forth to be 0-89/m² and maximum abundance to be 288/m². Ratcliffe et al. (1981) reported adult densities in the Humber Estuary, UK, between 5,000/m² and 40,000/m² depending on time since a successful spatfall. Bonsdorff et al. (1995) reported juvenile density in the Baltic Sea following settlement to be 300,000/m² decreasing to a stable adult density of 1,000/m².
Size at maturity
Caddy (1967) reported Macoma balthica from the River Thames reaching maturity in their 2nd year at a size of 5-6mm, whereas in the Netherlands, first year animals larger than 4mm had developed gonads during the spawning season (Lammens, 1967). Lavoie (1970) (cited in Gilbert, 1978) reported that a population of Macoma balthica from a French estuary did not achieve sexual maturity until their second year at a mean length of 3.57mm. Given that the growth rate varies significantly between populations, Gilbert (1978) suggested that Macoma balthica may mature in its 2nd year of life regardless of size or during its first year if a certain size is achieved. Harvey & Vincent (1989), however, consider that sexual maturity is a function of size rather than age in Macoma balthica, maturation occurring when the shell reaches 6mm with corresponding ages of individuals from the same population varying between 10 and 22 months.
Growth rate
Gilbert (1973) reported mean annual growth rate of Macoma balthica to be 3.3mm/yr with an average length of 18-20mm for fully grown individuals. However, other studies show considerable variations in growth patterns in relation to habitat and depth. McLusky & Allan (1976) reported the maximum growth rate of Macoma balthica in the laboratory to be 1mm over an 8 month period for 5-7mm long animals maintained at 15°C and 25psu.
Toxicity
Macoma balthica is not normally considered to be toxic but may transfer toxicants through the food chain to predators. Macoma balthica was implicated in the Mersey bird kill in the late 1970's, owing to bioconcentration of alklyC-lead residues (Bull et al., 1983).
Biology References Fish & Fish, 1996, Bonsdorff, 1984, Harvey & Vincent, 1989, McLusky & Allan, 1976, Brafield & Newell, 1961, Clay, 1967(b), Stephen, 1929, Gilbert, 1973, Gilbert, 1978, Caddy, 1967, Lammens, 1967, Ratcliffe et al., 1981, Bonsdorff et al., 1995, Tebble, 1976, Bull et al., 1983, Hayward & Ryland, 1990, Julie Bremner, unpub data,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandCommon in estuarine environments around the British Isles, with the exception of the south coast.
Global distributionMacoma balthica has an extensive geographic range that reaches from temperate to arctic coastal waters in both the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth range
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationStudies have indicated that eastern and western North Atlantic populations of Macoma balthica are morphologically and genetically different from one another, and that they may have diverged as sibling species (Meehan & Carlton, 1988).
Depth preferences
Macoma balthica occurs in a wide depth range between the mid shore and 190m but is most abundant at moderate depths on muddy and sandy bottoms (Olafsson, 1986). However, in British waters Macoma balthica is mainly an intertidal species.
Local distribution
Macoma balthica is a resident species but because of near-surface habitat preference, populations may be subject to tidal re-location and scouring. Also observations of propulsion stimulus to scallops may assist in local relocation (Langston, W.J., pers. comm.)

Substratum preferencesMud
Muddy sand
Sandy mud
Physiographic preferencesRia / Voe
Estuary
Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zoneUpper Eulittoral
Mid Eulittoral
Lower Eulittoral
Wave exposureSheltered
Very Sheltered
Extremely Sheltered
Tidal stream strength/Water flowModerately Strong (1-3 kn)
Weak (<1 kn)
SalinityVariable (18-40 psu)
Reduced (18-30 psu)
Low (<18 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional Information
Distribution References Hayward et al., 1996, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Fish & Fish, 1996, Clay, 1967(b), Meehan & Carlton, 1988, Olafsson, 1986, Ratcliffe et al., 1981, Bonsdorff et al., 1995, Tebble, 1976, Picton & Costello, 1998, JNCC, 1999, Bruce et al., 1963, Hayward & Ryland, 1990, Julie Bremner, unpub data,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeGonochoristic
Developmental mechanismPlanktotrophic
Reproductive SeasonSpring and autumn Reproductive LocationInsufficient information
Reproductive frequencyAnnual episodic Regeneration potential No
Life span6-10 years Age at reproductive maturity
Generation time1-2 years Fecundity30000
Egg/propagule size Fertilization typeInsufficient information
Larvae/Juveniles
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potential>10km Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stage1-6 months   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationLife span
Gilbert (1973) reviewed longevity records of Macoma balthica. Life span is typically 5-10 years but may be as long as 30 years in populations from deep, cold water. The data presented suggest that maximum size and growth rate decrease and longevity increases with increasing latitude and associated cooler temperatures.
Age at maturity
Caddy (1967) reported Macoma balthica from the River Thames reaching maturity in their 2nd year at a size of 5-6mm, whereas in the Netherlands, first year animals larger than 4mm had developed gonads during the spawning season (Lammens, 1967). Lavoie (1970) (cited in Gilbert, 1978) reported that a population of Macoma balthica from a French estuary did not achieve sexual maturity until their second year at a mean length of 3.57mm. Given that the growth rate varies significantly between populations, Gilbert (1978) suggested that Macoma balthica may mature in its 2nd year of life regardless of size or during its first year if a certain size is achieved. Harvey & Vincent (1989), however, consider that sexual maturity is a function of size rather than age in Macoma balthica, maturation occurring when the shell reaches 6mm with corresponding ages of individuals from the same population varying between 10 and 22 months.
Gametogenesis and spawning
Caddy (1967) studied gametogenesis and spawning in a population of Macoma balthica from the Thames Estuary, UK. The primary gonad passed through a male phase, maturation being achieved in the 2nd year of life. Gametogenesis was associated with a system of follicle cells which broke down as the gametes approached maturity. The arrangement of the follicle cells was characteristic of the sex. In the female, gametocytes were peripheral to the follicle cells, while in the male they were interstitial. Spermatogenesis proceeded most rapidly in the centre of the follicle, resulting in a gradient of spermatogenic stages of increasing maturity from the periphery to the centre.
Spawning occurred principally in the spring and to a lesser extent in the autumn. Several spawnings were identified within a season, but repeated cycles of gametogenesis were absent. Ejection of eggs occurred from the exhalant siphon and continued for 40 minutes with brief spawning bursts at 3 minute intervals. Eggs were expelled at considerable speed to a height in the water column of approximately 8cm and settled out of suspension slowly. Females of approximately 17mm shell length were estimated to have expelled between 10,000 and 50,000 eggs.
Reproduction References Fish & Fish, 1996, Harvey & Vincent, 1989, Gilbert, 1973, Gilbert, 1978, Caddy, 1967, Lammens, 1967, Ratcliffe et al., 1981, Bonsdorff et al., 1995, Eckert, 2003, Julie Bremner, unpub data,
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