I understand that nuclear stability is explained by the presence of the residual nuclear force, which in turn is a result of the strong nuclear force, which I believe, is mediated between quarks via gluons. This force overcomes the mutual electrostatic repulsion between protons in a nucleus and contributes to its stability.
However, I have read in multiple sources that "mesons" contribute to nuclear stability.
From what I understand, mesons are bosons made of a quark and an antiquark, and are very short-lived.
How can mesons make the nucleus stable?
Do they appear as virtual particles? If yes, is it better to say that gluons and quarks (mediating the strong force) are what holds the nucleus together or that mesons do so?
Also, please highlight any incorrect assumptions I have made in this post.
A similar question has been posted here but it does not really answer my question