Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 2, pp 449–460 | Cite as

Comparative vulnerability to predators, and induced defense responses, of eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica and non-native Crassostrea ariakensis oysters in Chesapeake Bay

  • Roger I. E. NewellEmail author
  • Victor S. Kennedy
  • Kristi S. Shaw
Research Article


Management agencies are considering introducing the Suminoe oyster Crassostrea ariakensis into Chesapeake Bay, USA. It is unknown if the growth of feral populations of this non-native oyster would be regulated by the same predators that once controlled the abundance of the native eastern oyster C. virginica. In laboratory studies, we compared the relative susceptibility of juvenile diploids (shell height < 25 mm) of both oyster species to invertebrate predators of eastern oyster juveniles. Predators included four species of mud crabs [Rhithropanopeus harrisii (carapace width 7–11 mm), Eurypanopeus depressus (6–21 mm), Dyspanopeus sayi (8–20 mm), and Panopeus herbstii (9–29 mm)], the blue crab Callinectes sapidus (35–65 mm), and two sizes of polyclad flatworms (Stylochus ellipticus and possibly Euplana gracilis; planar area ≲5 mm2 and ∼14 to 88 mm2). All four species of mud crab and the blue crab preyed significantly (ANOVA, P ≤ 0.05) more on C. ariakensis than on C. virginica, but predation by flatworms of both sizes did not differ significantly between oyster species. The greater susceptibility of C. ariakensis to crab predation was likely due to its shell compression strength being 64% lower than that of C. virginica (P = 0.005). To test for predator-induced enhancement of shell strength, we held oysters of both species for 54 days in the presence of, but protected from, C. sapidus and R. harrisii. Crabs were fed congeneric oysters twice weekly within each aquarium. Compared to controls, shell strength of C. virginica exposed to R. harrisii increased significantly (P < 0.043), as did shell strength of both oyster species exposed to C. sapidus (P < 0.01). Despite the changes in shell strength by both oyster species in the presence of C. sapidus, the shell of C. ariakensis remained 57% weaker than C. virginica. We conclude that, because C. ariakensis exposed to predators continued to have a weaker shell relative to C. virginica, the natural suite of crab and flatworm predators in Chesapeake Bay will likely serve to control the abundance of feral C. ariakensis. We caution that the situation in the natural environment may be sufficiently different in some locations that C. ariakensis may be able to compensate for its greater vulnerability to crab predation and hence become a nuisance species.


Blue Crab Carapace Width Shell Height Alarm Pheromone Eastern Oyster 
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We are grateful to Ed Jones (Taylor Shellfish) for providing Suminoe oyster larvae; Mark Luckenbach (Virginia Institute for Marine Science) for providing eastern oyster larvae; Melissa Radcliffe (Horn Point Laboratory) for supplying cultured microalgae; John Thiravong (University of Delaware Center for Composite Materials) for providing technical assistance with the Instron instrument; Matt Hare (University of Maryland College Park) for performing genetic analysis for oyster species identification; Angela Freeman for initial technical assistance; George Abbe, Don Boesch, and Robert Prezant and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments. This research was supported by award NA16RG2207/07-5-28068J from Maryland Sea Grant, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and award NA04NMF4570425 from NMFS-NOAA non-native oyster research program. The experiments reported herein comply with the current laws of the USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger I. E. Newell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Victor S. Kennedy
    • 1
  • Kristi S. Shaw
    • 1
  1. 1.Horn Point LaboratoryUniversity of Maryland Center for Environmental ScienceCambridgeUSA

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