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Scaredy-Oysters: In Situ Documentation of an Oyster Behavioral Response to Predators

Journal article
Authors J. M. Carroll
Jeff C. Clements
Published in Southeastern Naturalist
Volume 18
Issue 3
Pages N21-N26
ISSN 1528-7092
Publication year 2019
Published at The Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages N21-N26
Language en
Keywords crassostrea-virginica, inducible defenses, mussels, plasticity, say, Biodiversity & Conservation, Environmental Sciences & Ecology
Subject categories Ecology


Non-consumptive effects of predators on prey populations have received increased interest in recent years. For Crassostrea virginica (Eastern Oyster), much of the focus has been on induced morphological defenses (e.g., shell thickening). Here, we provide in situ documentation of a behavioral response of Eastern Oysters (valve closure) to the threat of predation on a natural reef. This behavioral response, while intuitive, has been largely ignored in the literature despite potential impacts on individual oyster health by affecting feeding and subsequently energy assimilation, reproductive condition, and growth. In situ photographs revealed that, under natural conditions, Eastern Oysters closed during the passive presence of a crab mate-guarding pair and took similar to 5 minutes to reopen to pre-predator gapes. Given that multiple oysters in our photos reacted similarly, this behavioral response may scale up to have effects on the population and the ecosystem services that Eastern Oysters provide. Ultimately, our observations open the door to a number of testable hypotheses regarding a predator's non-consumptive effects on oyster reefs.

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