Heavy mussel

■ Kalk Bay resident Gordon Bailey found this large mussel washed up along the waters’ edge on Fish Hoek beach on Tuesday September 27. “It was slightly open and everything inside looked just like a mussel should be. As I was turning it in my hands it suddenly shut tight. I photographed it then took it into the sea and returned it to the water,” he said. Dr Maya Pfaff, biodiversity and coastal researcher in the Department of Environmental Affairs said the photo was of an old eroded specimen of the Scaly Horse Mussel (Atrina squamifera), which is a common indigenous inhabitant of False Bay, and gets up to 39cm long. “A more pristine specimen would be translucent brown in colour, with sharp edges of the shells.” She said that UCT emeritus professors George Branch and Charles Griffiths recognised the species despite its eroded state. In their book, Two Oceans, a Guide to the Marine Life of Southern Africa, they wrote that the mussel lives partially buried in sheltered mud or sand and that the byssal threads (beard) of the mussel were reputedly woven into Jason’s golden fleece of Greek mythology. “I hope this satisfies the curiosity of the observant beachcomber who sent the photograph,” said Dr Pfaff.