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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Basic Oyster Facts

Here are some oyster basics:

The native eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, usually lives in water depths of between 8 and 25 feet and naturally forms three-dimensional intertidal reefs.

An oyster orients itself with the flared edge of its shell tilted upward. The left valve is cupped, while the right valve is flat. The shell opens periodically to permit the oyster to feed on plankton.

Oysters usually mature by age one. They are protandric, which means that in the first year they spawn as males, but as they grow larger and develop more energy reserves in the next two to three years, they spawn as females.

An increase in water temperatures triggers the male oyster to release sperm and the female to release eggs into the water. This triggers a chain reaction of spawning which clouds the water with millions of eggs and sperm. A single female oyster produces 10 to 100 million eggs annually.

The eggs are fertilized in the water and soon develop into larvae, or veligers, which are drawn to the chemicals released by older oysters on the bottom. Oysters need to settle in a suitable spot, such as another oyster’s shell. Juvenile attached oysters are called “spat.”