Brachidontes variabilis is a common fouling mussel species in cooling water systems of tropical coastal power stations. However, there are hardly any data available on the response of B. variabilis to chlorine, a commonly used antifouling biocide. Therefore, lethal and sublethal responses of this mussel to chlorine are of considerable interest to the industry. The response of mussels in terms of mortality pattern (LT50 and LT100) and physiological activities (oxygen consumption, filtration rate, foot activity and byssus thread production) in different size groups (with shell lengths of 7–24 mm) of B. variabilis was studied in the laboratory under different chlorine concentrations (0.25, 0.50, 0.75 and 1.00 mg l−1 for sublethal responses and 1, 2, 3 and 5mg l−1 for mortality). The results showed that the exposure time for 100% mortality of mussels decreased significantly with increasing chlorine concentration. However, mussel size was not a determinant of its chlorine tolerance: all size groups tested (with shell lengths of 7–24 mm) took comparable exposure times to reach 100% mortality at a given chlorine concentration (1–5 mg l−1). All size groups of B. variabilis showed a progressive reduction in physiological activities such as oxygen consumption, filtration rate, foot activity and byssus thread production, when chlorine residuals were increased from 0 to 1 mg l−1. The data generated in the present work are compared with similar data available for other tropical fouling mussel species to see how far relative chlorine toxicity could have influenced the relative distribution of the mussels inside the seawater intake tunnel of a power station at Kalpakkam in India. It is shown that in this insufficiently chlorinated system, the relative distribution of Brachidontes striatulus, B. variabilis and Modiolus philippinarum reflects the relative tolerance of the species to chlorine.
Keywords: Mussel fouling; Brachidontes variabilis; Chlorine; Mortality; Physiological activities