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Live Pacific Oyster in Prince William Sound

July 17, 2013

On a recent survey in Prince William Sound Angela Doroff (KBRR) and Mandy Lindeberg (NOAA) spotted something unusual- a live Pacific oyster growing in the wild.  This oyster was approximately 20 miles away from the nearest aquaculture facility. It’s exact origin is unknown, leaving the scientists only to speculate about it’s settlement here. Below is a note from Angela about the recent finding:

Facts:

  • Definitely live.
  • Definitely C. gigas, not one of the other Asian species, and not a tsunami invader.
  • At least 5 yrs old due to perennial seaweeds growing on it and size.
  • It was found at ~+0.5 m tide line (6:20 am).
  • It was fused to a small cobble on the underside (typical of a wild growing specimen).
  • Habitat was in back of protected bay and substrate consisted of mixed cobble, pebble, sand, mud (classic pocket estuary for PWS). Near small creek. (consistent with where you would find them in the wild).
  • We searched for other individuals a bit but didn’t find any.

Background on life history:

  • fast growing but can be long lived (up to 30 years).
  • Usually becomes fertile in July/August.
  • require 4-8 weeks of water temperatures at 18 deg. C to reproduce successfully. Larvae are planktonic (3-4 weeks).
  • Pacific oysters change sex during the life, spawning firsts as a male and then female. A few individuals can be hermaphroditic.

Speculation:

  • May have been discarded by weekenders who purchased oysters from farm? The shells could have been discarded which often have oyster spat attached. (I didn’t see any evidence of a a parent shell on this individual).
  • Uncontrolled natural invasion from mariculture source? Maybe, it is about 20-25 km away from Perry Is., an impressive journey though.
  • Natural settlement? Would be extremely rare.

Click here for photos of the oyster and exact location of collection.

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