Oyster

Crassostrea virginica

About This Animal

SIZE: Between 3 to 4 inches long

RANGE: The American or eastern oyster is found along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of North America

HABITAT: Typically found in estuaries, sounds, bays, and tidal creeks from brackish water to full strength seawater at depths of 8 to 25 feet

DIET: Filter feed on plankton

ON EXHIBIT: Seahorse Gallery in River Journey

Oysters form reefs, which are a dominant feature of many coastal estuaries. Oysters are often considered a "keystone species" that plays a critical role in maintaining the structure of aquatic communities where they occur. Oysters provide valuable shelter and habitat for many other estuarine organisms, improve water quality by filter feeding, and reduce bank erosion through stabilization.

Oysters are tolerant organisms, able to withstand wide variations in temperature, salinity, and concentrations of suspended sediments and dissolved oxygen. Oysters may have different flavors depending on what environmental conditions they lived in. An oyster produces a pearl when a foreign object gets caught in the shell. The oyster responds to irritation and produces nacre that coats the foreign object, making it into a pearl.

Whether you eat them in moderation or by the dozen, these delightful mollusks provide a low calorie protein that are an excellent source of zinc, vitamin B-12, and omega-3 fatty acids.