Mytilus Galloprovincialis as a Bioindicator of Environmental Conditions: The Case of the Eastern Coast of the Adriatic Sea

Isotopes Environ Health Stud. 2011 Mar;47(1):42-61. doi: 10.1080/10256016.2011.548866.


The marine mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis lives attached to the surface of hard substrata, where its exposure and relative immobility allow it to record changes in ambient seawater. It is also found along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. Oxygen and carbon isotopes were analysed for calcite and aragonite in separate shell layers, while major, minor and trace elements in the bulk shell were analysed to evaluate environmental conditions such as the temperature of carbonate deposition, freshwater influence and locations of anthropogenic pollution. We found that, on average, aragonite is enriched by 1.1‰ in (13)C and by 0.2‰ in (18)O compared with calcite. The calculated temperatures for M. galloprovincialis shell growth from the investigated area range from 13.4 to 20.9 °C for calcite and from 16.6 to 23.1 °C for aragonite. According to the δ(18)O and δ(13)C values of shell layers, we can separate the investigated area into three locations: those with more influence of freshwater, those with less influence of freshwater and those with marine environments. The highest concentrations of manganese, barium, boron, arsenic, nickel and chromium were observed in shells from Omis, Bacvice and Zablace (Central Adriatic) and Sv. Ivan (South Adriatic), where chemical and heavy industries are located and where sewage is known to be discharged into coastal areas. The highest concentrations of zinc, lead and copper were measured in samples from Pula, Rijeka and Gruz, where there are also ports in addition to industry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Carbonate / analysis
  • Calcium Carbonate / metabolism
  • Carbon Isotopes / metabolism
  • Croatia
  • Environment
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / metabolism
  • Mytilus / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Isotopes / metabolism
  • Salinity*
  • Seawater / analysis
  • Temperature
  • Trace Elements / analysis
  • Trace Elements / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Trace Elements
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Calcium Carbonate