The dynamics of accumulation and elimination of hydrocarbons by the blue mussel Mytilus edulis were studied in a continuous-flow system. Mussels were exposed for as long as 41 days to 200 to 400 ..mu..g/l of diesel fuel adsorbed on kaolin particles. Hydrocarbons were accumulated in the tissues in excess of 1000 times the exposure levels. Upon termination of dosing, the mussels exhibited a rather rapid loss of hydrocarbons for the first 15 to 20 days (biological half-life = 2.7 to 3.5 days). Subsequently, however, elimination was reduced to a minimum and a considerable fraction of the hydrocarbons could be recovered from the tissues after as long as 32 days of depuration. The mussels exhibited definite signs of physiological stress due to chronic exposure to diesel fuel, although recovery was rapid upon termination of dosing. It is concluded that mussels could be utilized as a test organism for monitoring long-term hydrocarbon pollution in marine waters. The implications for the mussel culture industry are discussed.