Oyster shells as habitat: Encrusters and borings

Stephen K Donovan and Werner de Gier (The Netherlands) “The talk [between Nero Wolfe and Lon Cohen] had covered the state of the Union, the state of the feminine mind, whether any cooked oyster can be fit to eat, structural linguistics, and the prices of books” (Stout, 1975, p. 13). Oysters have a close association with humanity, worthy of discussion as the above quotation demonstrates. They form the focus of several semi-popular books (for example, Stott, 2004; Kurlansky, 2007). The prevalence of oysters in shell middens on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (Purdy, 1996; Milner et al., 2007; Hirst, 2019), and elsewhere (for example, Renfrew and Bahn, 2012, pp. 294-295), shows that they have been an important food source since prehistory. If the importance of oysters as food is today diminished in these areas, several factors must contribute, such as overfishing, pollution and reduced dependence of urban populations on fresh seafoods. This does not make an oyster any less interesting to the zoologist and palaeontologist (Yonge, 1960). Their robust valves make their preservation potential particularly high, so oyster-rich sedimentary deposits are locally common (Littlewood and Donovan, 1988; Donovan et al., 2014a; and Figs. 1 and 2 in this article). Even on stretches of modern coastline where oysters are rare, their valves are still tough enough to be found washed up on beaches after storms (Fig. 3). Even if bivalves that burrow into sandy substrates, such as razor shells, cockles and their kin, are numerically dominant as dead shells along … Read More

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