Late Quaternary (Eemian) deposits of the Netherlands contain shells that resemble those of living Mytilus galloprovincialis. Similar broad-shelled mytilids also occur in estuaries of the southwestern Netherlands together with slender individuals typical of M. edulis. We sampled living mussels along a depth gradient in the Oosterschelde to a) investigate whether a relation exists between shell shape and depth, b) test if the broad-shelled specimens might represent M. galloprovincialis (or a hybrid with M. edulis) and c) assess by inference if the Quaternary specimens might be attributed to M. galloprovincialis as well. In order to do so, we compared genetic (length polymorphism of Me 15/16, COIII sequences and AFLPs) and shell-morphological characteristics (juvenile L/W ratios and so-called Verduin parameters) of the same specimens. The obtained dataset indicates that all studied mussels from the Oosterschelde should be attributed to M. edulis, including those with broad shell outlines. No correlation of shell-morphology and depth-distribution was found. The worn and generally damaged state of the Eemian specimens precluded measurement of the Verduin parameters, while juvenile L/W ratios turned out not to be diagnostic. Therefore the shell characters examined in this study are insufficient to demonstrate the possible presence of M. galloprovincialis shells in Quaternary deposits of the Netherlands.
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