What Eats Mussels?

By Brittany Smith

Mussels can live in both fresh water and salt water, and are distinguished from clams by their asymmetrical shells. Mussels have many natural enemies that they try to protect themselves from with their hard, thick shells. Mussel predators include people, birds, mammals, star fish and sea snails.

People

People harvest sea mussels as well as catch them wild, and usually serve them steamed or boiled. Mussels go well by themselves or served with other seafood in a variety of sauces.

Birds

Any kind of water bird is a natural predator of both salt water and fresh water mussels. These birds include ducks, geese and gulls. Water birds dive down and dig up the mussels with their beaks, then crack the shells open with their beaks so they can eat the inside of the mussel.

Mammals

Mammals that live in the water also eat mussels. Otters dive to retrieve mussels, then float on their backs and crack the mussels with rocks. Other mammals, like raccoons, retrieve the mussels and open them with a rock or their sharp teeth.

Sea Stars

Sea stars that live at the bottom of the ocean also eat mussels. Sea stars dig their arms into the sand to pull out the mussel. Then the star stuffs the mussel into its stomach, pulls out the meaty inside and disposes of the shell.

Sea Snails

Sea snails also eat mussels. The snail makes a hole in the shell of the mussel with its tooth. The mussel then inserts a chemical into the hole that both softens the shell of the mussel and decomposes the soft inside so the the inside can be sucked out of the shell.